US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday launched a scathing attack against China for a lack of transparency during "the early stages" of the coronavirus pandemic and called for a more thorough investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Blinken's remarks come as a report of a joint inquiry by the World Health Organization and China published last month did not conclusively establish how or when the virus began spreading and did little to address Western concerns that the Chinese Communist Party bent the investigation to its advantage. "I think China knows that in the early stages of COVID, it didn't do what it needed to do, which was to give access to international experts, in real-time to share information, in real-time to provide real transparency," said Blinken in an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC, as per the transcript by the US Department of State.
The top US diplomat stated that one result of that failure is that the virus got out of hand faster and with."I think, much more egregious results than it might otherwise," he said.
"As we're dealing with COVID-19, we also have to put in place a stronger global health security system to make sure that this doesn't happen again or, if it does happen again, we're able to mitigate it, to get ahead of it. And that means making a real commitment to transparency, to information sharing, to access for experts. It means strengthening the World Health Organization and reforming it so it can do that. And China has to play a part in that," Blinken added.
When asked about whether Washington is going to guarantee to the world that we're going to get to the bottom of how this originated, the top diplomat agreed with the same and stated that "we need to get to the bottom of this".
"I think we have to, because we need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened in order to have the best shot possible at preventing it from happening again. That's why we need to get to the bottom of this," he said.
Blinken's comments, however, illustrated the Biden administration's willingness to convey skepticism of the official narrative coming from Beijing, according to The New York Times.
A group of international scientists called for a new investigation into the origins of Covid-19 last week after China and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a scrutinized report last week concluding that the virus most likely came from wildlife instead of a laboratory.
Twenty-four scientists from Europe, the US, Australia and Japan issued an open letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, that analyzed steps to complete a more comprehensive investigation, as reported by The Hill.
The scientists requested a probe involving biosecurity and biosafety experts conducted either by WHO or another group of nations to study the origins of COVID-19, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, in 2019.
The WHO report determined that the possibility the virus came from a lab was "extremely unlikely," noting there was "no record" any lab had closely related viruses.
The United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia and Israel recently said in a statement that they "fully" supported the WHO's efforts to bring an end to the pandemic, including understanding how it "started and spread".
But they added it was "essential that we voice our shared concerns that the international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples".
US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price last week said that what is evident from Washington's review of the report is that it lacks crucial data, it lacks information, and it lacks access. "It represents a picture that is partial and, in our view, incomplete. That's not just our view. Many other countries share that view," he said during a briefing.
China has been criticised widely across the world for its role in the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected over 135 million people across the world. More than 2.934 million people have lost their lives to the virus, as per Johns Hopkins University.