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US denounces terms for WHO-led inquiry into Covid-19 origins

GENEVA: The United States, which has accused China of having hidden the extent of its coronavirus outbreak, called for a "transparent and inclusive" World Trade Organisation (WHO) international investigation into the origin of the pandemic, criticising its current terms.

The Trump administration had accused the UN health body of being "China-centric" and of being its puppet, which WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has denied.

He revealed the team's composition on Tuesday, telling the WHO annual ministerial meeting: "These are very respected individuals in their areas."

Team members came from Russia, Australia, Sudan, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, Britain and the US, he said.

The coronavirus is believed to have emerged in the Chinese central city of Wuhan late last year, possibly from bats at a market with live animals.

INCONSISTENT

Chinese scientists are researching its origins and how it jumped the species barrier.

The WHO-led international team formed in September is to develop plans for longer-term studies building on China's findings, according to its published terms of reference.

US Department of Health and Human Services' Garrett Grigsby told WHO's assembly that member states had been informed of the investigation's terms of reference only a few days ago.

The terms were "not negotiated in a transparent way with all WHO member states" and "the investigation itself appears to be inconsistent" with its mandate, he said, without elaborating.

"Understanding the origins of Covid-19 through a transparent and inclusive investigation is what must be done to meet the mandate," Mr Grigsby said.

Meanwhile, the US on Tuesday far exceeded its previous daily record of new Covid-19 cases, adding 201,961 cases in 24 hours, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The high number, partly due to data delayed over the weekend, took total cases in the US to 10,238,243, with a total of 239,588 deaths.

In the 24-hour period, 1,535 deaths were registered, a record in recent months.

Coronavirus hospitalisations have also hit an all-time high, with more than 60,000 hospitalised, according to the Covid Tracking Project. - REUTERS, AFP

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