Pressure Mounts on China to Give W.H.O. Coronavirus Raw Data from Wuhan


U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week he would repeat his call for China to release raw data on the early spread of the Wuhan coronavirus during the G-7 virtual summit.

The United States has also called on China to release source data that was withheld from World Health Organization (W.H.O.) investigators when they visited Wuhan.

Members of the long-delayed, much-obstructed W.H.O. mission to Wuhan said last week they were not allowed to review some key sets of raw data about early coronavirus cases. They were, in essence, told to accept analysis and conclusions from Chinese scientists without gaining access to the records and samples they used.

The Chinese government dismissed these complaints as trivial and accused Western media of trying to manufacture a scandal where none existed. Some members of the W.H.O. team defended the Chinese, while others insisted the withholding of raw data was troubling and highly irregular, especially given the global magnitude of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

Both the U.S. and U.K. governments took the complaints about raw data seriously and issued statements demanding all of the evidence be handed over to international investigators. The White House on Saturday suggested W.H.O.’s “credibility” was at stake.

“We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them. It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government. To better understand this pandemic and prepare for the next one, China must make available its data from the earliest days of the outbreak,” said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

U.K. Prime Minister Johnson supported the White House statement in a Sunday interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation.  

“When you have a zoonotic plague like coronavirus, we need to know exactly how it happened,” Johnson explained. “Indeed, if it’s zoonotic, if it really originated from human contact with the animal kingdom, that’s what is asserted. But we need to know exactly what happened. Was it in a wet market? Did it come from the bats? Were the bats associated with the pangolins?”

“All these questions are now matters of speculation. We need to see the data. We need to see all the evidence,” he said.

Fox News on Thursday quoted emailed comments from W.H.O. spokesman Tarik Jasarevic which affirmed “it is customary that datasets are shared for parallel analysis.”

Jasarevic said China provided raw data for “some of the studies,” and said W.H.O. plans on continuing discussions for “other aspects of the work where this was not yet possible.”

“There were moments where strong, sometimes challenging, scientific dialogue took place,” Jasarevic said of reports that W.H.O. investigators had some “heated discussions” with recalcitrant Chinese officials. 

Johnson said on Face the Nation he would call for China to release all of its data at the G-7 virtual summit on Friday, which he hosted. Transcripts of the meeting published on Friday afternoon did not mention any such discussion, and China is mentioned only once in the official communique from the summit, without any reference to Wuhan or the coronavirus: “With the aim of supporting a fair  and mutually beneficial global economic system for all people, we will engage with others, especially G20 countries including large economies such as China.” 

The communique included several pledges for global cooperation to deal with Chinese coronavirus and its aftermath, and stressed the importance of the World Health Organization, but did not mention China’s failure to cooperate fully with W.H.O.


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