German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday urged China to be as transparent as possible about the coronavirus outbreak, as Beijing faces mounting pressure over its management of the crisis.
Critics have accused China of downplaying the scale and scope of the outbreak when it first emerged late last year, while conspiracy theories have swirled in the US the virus could have been leaked from a lab.
Merkel urged for more information about the early days of the outbreak, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
“I believe the more transparent China is about the origin story of the virus, the better it is for everyone in the world in order to learn from it,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin Monday.
Chinese scientists say the virus was likely first transmitted to humans at a wet market where wild animals were sold.
Unproven theories that the virus came from a maximum-security virology lab in Wuhan have been raised by US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who has said an investigation was under way into how the virus “got out into the world”.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has strongly rejected claims it could be the source of the outbreak, calling it “impossible”.
Chinese authorities have been accused of initially downplaying the outbreak and last week authorities in Wuhan admitted mistakes in counting their death toll and revised the figure up by 50 percent.
French President Emmanuel Macron last week told the Financial Times it would be “naive” to think China had handled the pandemic well, adding: “There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”
In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said China will face “hard questions” about the coronavirus outbreak, namely “how it came about and how it couldn’t have been stopped earlier”.
Australia meanwhile has called for an independent investigation into the global response to the pandemic, including the World Health Organization’s handling of the crisis.
Its foreign minister has said the country would “insist” on a review that would probe, in part, China’s response to the outbreak.