WHO team: Virus lab leak 'extremely unlikely'

A team of experts from the World Health Organization says that while an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus remains inconclusive, it is "extremely unlikely" that the virus leaked from a lab in China.

The WHO team released a final report jointly written with Chinese scientists on Tuesday. The team spent 28 days from mid-January in Wuhan, where the virus was first confirmed.

The report says it is "likely to very likely" that the virus spread to humans from bats through intermediate hosts, such as pangolins or rabbits.

But it says a leak from a virus lab in Wuhan was "extremely unlikely" due to proper safety controls. The scenario was touted by former US President Donald Trump.

Team leader Peter Ben Embarek said, "This is a work in progress" and additional studies should be conducted.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus suggested in a briefing to member states that cooperation from China was inadequate.

Tedros said members of the team expressed difficulties in accessing raw data in China. He said, "I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing."

Following the report, the governments of 14 countries including Japan, the US, Britain and South Korea expressed their "shared concerns" over the studies in China.

A joint statement released on Tuesday says, "Together, we support a transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence, of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic."

It expresses shared concerns that the study by the experts was "significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples."

The statement says "a rapid, independent, expert-led, and unimpeded evaluation of the origins is critical" to prevent future pandemics.

It calls for "a renewed commitment by WHO and all Member States to access, transparency and timeliness" in further studies.