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Photo: Peace One Day via Getty Images

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the joint WHO-China report on the origins of the coronavirus on Tuesday, but he noted that scientists had difficulty "accessing raw data" from China and called for further investigation of the lab leak theory.

Why it matters: The comments come in the wake of an inconclusive report that has prompted concerns about transparency and the influence of the Chinese government over the investigation.

Background: The report assessed that the coronavirus was most likely introduced to humans through an intermediate animal host, but called for further investigation in numerous areas — except for the theory that the virus leaked from a lab accident, which it called "extremely unlikely."

What he's saying: "I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough," Tedros said at a briefing on Tuesday. "Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions."

  • "Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy."

The big picture: 14 countries — Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, the U.S. and the U.K. — released a joint statement on Tuesday expressing "shared concern" about the lack of access to "complete, original data and samples."

  • Tedros, who was accused during the Trump administration of being beholden to China, appeared to echo some of those criticisms, saying, "In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data."
  • "I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing," he added.

The bottom line: "Finding the origin of a virus takes time, and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again," Tedros concluded. "No single research trip can provide all the answers."

Go deeper: More findings from the report

Go deeper

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

Former NSC official raises concerns of interference in pandemic probe

Screenshot of Jamie Metzl. Photo: CBS

The World Health Organization's probe into the COVID-19 pandemic origins is not an investigation, it's "essentially a highly chaperoned, highly curated study tour," a WHO adviser and former Clinton administration official told CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday.

Why it matters: Jamie Metzl's comments that China's government set the mission's ground rules and had "veto power" over who could be on the research team add to concerns raised by the Biden administration and others that the Chinese Communist Party may have interfered in the investigation.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Mar 30, 2021 - Health

The growing fight over coronavirus vaccine patents

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A growing chorus of advocates wants to weaken some of the intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, which they say will quickly expand global supplies. But critics say the move wouldn't work, and would set a bad precedent.

Where it stands: The Biden administration is evaluating the idea, including whether it would work as intended.