White House aide urges WHO to dig deeper into virus origins

WASHINGTON • United States President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser has called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to dig deeper and urged China to release raw data on the origins of the coronavirus, casting doubt on the completeness of a coming report from the health organisation.

“The only way to have a scientifically based investigation is to have access to all the data,” said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Face The Nation on CBS, calling for “a credible, open, transparent international investigation led by the World Health Organisation”.

The WHO sent a team of investigators, mostly scientists, to China for four weeks over last month and this month to investigate the origins of the virus. The team said, after returning to the US, that Chinese scientists refused to give them access to patient records and other critical data. The investigators are already working on a preliminary report, but Mr Sullivan said on Sunday that more research is needed. “The WHO still has more work to do to get to the bottom of exactly where this virus emerged.”

Towards the end of the show on which Mr Sullivan aired his concerns, Mr Matthew Pottinger, former US president Donald Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, made an appearance, continuing to advance a discredited theory promoted by the Trump administration and challenged by many scientists – that Covid-19 was the product of secret Chinese military experimentation in a lab in Wuhan, China.

While acknowledging some of the Trump administration’s “grave missteps”, Mr Pottinger said China misled US public health experts by not disclosing that the virus could spread silently, carried by people who did not show symptoms.

“We were waiting to be fed information when the nature of that regime meant that we were not going to get that information,” Mr Pottinger said. “They had a strong incentive to mislead their own public and the rest of the world about the nature of this virus.”

During his appearance, Mr Sullivan lamented a decision by the Trump administration to dismantle a special White House office that the Obama administration had set up within the National Security Council to detect and address pandemics.

And Mr Pottinger said that, based on the Covid-19 experience, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention should establish “a new super body for pandemic preparedness and response”, with the person in charge attached to the White House.

Both men said that the US intelligence community should have played a greater role in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Sullivan said the Biden administration would be increasing “its tools, its resources, its practices to focus on detecting, preventing and responding to pandemics”.

Mr Pottinger, a former Marine intelligence officer who resigned from the Trump administration after Mr Trump’s supporters invaded the Capitol on Jan 6, said: “I don’t think that the intelligence community is going to be able to do more than that critical role of collecting and analysing the information.”

NYTIMES