GENEVA

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief said Friday he expects China to support the next phase of the scientific process to identify the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus, after the first part was criticized. 

Tedros Ghebreyesus addressed representatives of the health organization’s member states on the origins of the virus that has wreaked havoc worldwide since early in 2020, killing millions and shutting down economies.

“Finding where this virus came from is essential not just for understanding how the pandemic started and preventing future outbreaks, but it’s also important as an obligation to the families of the 4 million people who have lost someone they love, and the millions who have suffered,” said Tedros.

“We expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency.”

He said the WHO expects all member states to support the scientific process “by refraining from politicizing it.”

At the end of March, a WHO-led international scientific team delivered its report following a mission to China in January, in line with the World Health Assembly for a probe into the virus, said Tedros.

But some countries, including the US, were not satisfied with the report, and on May 26, US Health Minister Xavier Becerra called for a second phase study into the origins of the virus.

“Phase 2 of the COVID origins study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak,” said Becerra.

Tedros said Friday that the WHO knows that SARS-CoV-2 will not be the last new pathogen with pandemic potential.

“There will be more, and we will need to understand the origins of those pathogens too,” he said.

Tedros said it is the view of the WHO that the world needs a more stable and predictable framework for studying the origins of new pathogens with epidemic or pandemic potential.

“Accordingly, I am pleased to announce that the Secretariat is establishing a permanent International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO,” he said.

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