The World Health Organisation (WHO) has criticised China for withholding data related to samples taken at a market in Wuhan in 2020 that could have provided vital information about the COVID-19 pandemic's origins, calling on Beijing to be transparent and to share results of investigations it conducts.
The Huanan market in central China's Wuhan city was the epicentre of the pandemic. From its origin there, the SARS-CoV-2 virus rapidly spread to other locations in Wuhan in late 2019 and then to the rest of the world.
"Every piece of data relating to studying the origins of COVID-19 needs to be shared with the international community immediately. These data could have - and should have - been shared three years ago," World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
"We continue to call on China to be transparent in sharing data and to conduct the necessary investigations and share the results. Understanding how the pandemic began remains both a moral and scientific imperative," he said.
Ghebreyesus said that last Sunday, the global health agency was made aware of data published on the GISAID database in late January, and taken down again recently.
"The data, from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, relates to samples taken at the Huanan market in Wuhan, in 2020," he said.
Ghebreyesus said while the data was online, scientists from a number of countries downloaded the data and analysed it.