08:01 GMT15 June 2021
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    Last month, the White House accused China of failing "to be transparent" in releasing its findings on the origins of COVID-19 as part of a report Beijing issued in cooperation with the World Health Organisation.

    A group of House Republicans has claimed there is "significant circumstantial evidence" that the coronavirus outbreak emanated from a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

    In a report released on Wednesday, GOP members from the House Intelligence Committee urged the government to put "more pressure on China" to allow for a "full, credible investigation" into the source of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The report, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News, stated that it is "crucial for health experts and the US government to understand how the COVID-19 virus originated" to avert "or quickly mitigate future pandemics".

    Security personnel gather near the entrance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan in China's Hubei province on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.
    © AP Photo / Ng Han Guan
    Security personnel gather near the entrance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan in China's Hubei province on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.
    According to the document, international efforts to detect"“the true source of the virus […] have been stymied by a lack of cooperation from the People's Republic of China [PRC]".

    The House Republicans argued that "little circumstantial evidence has emerged to support the PRC's claim that COVID-19 was a natural occurrence, having jumped from some other species to humans". They accused the Chinese authorities of failing to identify "the original species that allegedly spread the virus to humans, which is critical to their zoonotic transfer theory".

    The report was published after the White House in April lashed out at a World Health Organisation (WHO)-China report, claiming the study lacks crucial information and depicts just a "partial, incomplete picture" of the origins of the coronavirus.

    Members of the medical staff work at the Central Hospital in Wuhan, China (File)
    © Photo : The Central Hospital of Wuhan
    Members of the medical staff work at the Central Hospital in Wuhan, China (File)
    White House press secretary Jen Psaki, for her part, urged China and the WHO to give international experts "unfettered access" to the virus-related data and to allow them to contact people on the ground at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak. Psaki added that US medical experts are still reviewing the report, but that the White House believes the document "doesn't meet the moment".

    The statement came after the WHO-China report in late March argued it's "extremely unlikely" that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19, escaped from a Wuhan research lab. At the same time, the report also failed to prove that the virus can be transmitted from animals to humans, something that until now was the prevailing thesis.

    In mid-February, a WHO team wrapped up a month-long research trip to Wuhan, the world's first COVID-19 hotspot. The mission probed several sites in the Chinese city, suspected of being the original source of the coronavirus, including a wet market and the BSL-4 high-security lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

    The probe was followed by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan voicing concern over whether China had duly submitted its raw data on COVID-19 to the WHO, amid media reports that the organisation's investigators were denied access to personalised info on more than a hundred early cases of the coronavirus. Beijing vehemently rejected the allegations.

    During the height of the pandemic, the former Trump administration asserted that the virus came from a lab, with the 45th US president repeatedly referring to COVID-19 as the "China virus".

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