India joined a growing list of countries on Thursday, April 1, calling for a comprehensive investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak in China and supported the proposal of World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to deploy additional missions.
Without mentioning China, India noted that the WHO Director-General had voiced concern regarding delays and difficulties in accessing raw data for the UN health agency's report on the origins of the COVID-19.
On Tuesday, the WHO and China released the long-awaited report on the origins of COVID-19, which listed four hypotheses in order of probability.
According to the report, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, most likely transmitted from bats to humans via an intermediary animal. It also stated that the virus was "extremely unlikely" to leak from the laboratory, Hindustan Times reported.
The External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "We share the need for a comprehensive and expert-led mechanism that would expeditiously investigate the origin of COVID-19 in cooperation with all stakeholders".
"It is pertinent to note that the director-general of the WHO has separately raised the issue of delays and difficulties in accessing raw data for the team conducting the study'', he said.
While extending his support to the WHO chief, he said, "We fully support the director general's expectation that future collaborative studies will include more timely and comprehensive data sharing."
The WHO chief, who has been accused of being soft towards China, called for further investigation into the hypothesis that COVID-19 originated from a laboratory leak. He also rebuked Beijing for withholding critical data. China has repeatedly dismissed the hypothesis that the virus leaked from a laboratory.
Addressing a meeting on the report to WHO's 194 member states, Ghebreyesus stressed for further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts. He stated that the evaluation was inadequate and that further evidence and studies were needed to draw robust conclusions.
In a joint statement, the United States and 13 other countries raised concern about the report, and said that the WHO team was "significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples". These countries support an independent analysis and evaluation of the pandemic's root, free from interference and undue influence.
Bagchi said that India appreciates the WHO Director-General's willingness to deploy additional missions. He added that the WHO report was a significant step in identifying the pandemic's origins.
"We join other stakeholders in voicing their expectations that follow up to the WHO report or further studies, including on an understanding of the earliest human cases and clusters by the WHO on this critical issue, will receive the fullest cooperation of all concerned," he said.
Bagchi added that India would continue to work closely with WHO to enhance global health security and strengthen the capacity so that a knowledge base and expertise facilitating genomic surveillance to track virus mutations and efficiently react to the next global pandemic can be established.