Brussels, 10 June 2021 (dpa/MIA) – The European Union’s top officials have thrown their weight behind US-led calls for deeper investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, in a move that may well irk Beijing.
“It is of utmost importance that we learn about the origins of the coronavirus,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters on Thursday ahead of G7 summit talks in Britain.
Asked whether the bloc would support US President Joe Biden’s calls for further probing, European Council President Charles Michel said full transparency was needed. “The world has the right to know exactly what happened,” he said.
After a research trip earlier this year to China’s Wuhan province – where Covid-19 was first detected in December 2019 – World Health Organization (WHO) experts said the virus could have jumped from animals to humans, but that much more research was needed. All hypotheses remained open, they stressed.
A number of countries expressed concern that the 17 international experts faced access restrictions, but participants denied this.
An alternative thesis pushed by the former US administration led by Donald Trump – that the virus escaped from a laboratory and spread – was described as “extremely unlikely” in the WHO report.
Beijing vehemently denies the lab leak theory, pointing to the WHO conclusions.
Last month, Biden ordered US intelligence agencies to redouble their investigations. Part of the intelligence community suspected that animal-human contact was to blame, but a smaller part thought that a lab leak could be the cause, he said at the time.
More research was needed, Biden said, adding that he would work with like-minded partners to continue to “press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation.”