European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the international community should investigate how the coronavirus pandemic started in order to be better prepared for future outbreaks.
In an interview with U.S. news channel CNBC published Friday, von der Leyen suggested the international community needed to study the coronavirus outbreak in order to set up an “early warning system.”
“You never know where the next virus is starting so we all want that, for the next time, we have learned our lesson and we have established a system of early warning that really functions,” she said, adding “the whole world has to contribute to that.”
Von der Leyen’s suggestion comes after the Swedish health minister called for an “international, independent investigation” into the origins and the spread of the virus. It also follows a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump, who suggested he had seen evidence that the virus originated in a Chinese scientific lab.
The Commission chief added the effort would require countries to provide insights into their data and response mechanisms: “[To build up] a system that you can count on, we need transparency. So we will have to work on that after the crisis,” she said.
China has faced criticism for being late to alert the international community when it saw the virus emerge in the city of Wuhan. Health experts have also questioned its reporting of infection figures throughout the crisis.
According to von der Leyen, an investigation into the origins of the virus won’t cause friction with the Beijing government, because “it’s in our own interest, of every county, that we are better prepared the next time.”
Disinformation researchers have flagged online misinformation campaigns that conflict with health authorities’ guidance and aim to spread doubt over the origins of the virus. Some of the activity has been linked to Chinese and Russian networks, including by the EU’s own strategic communications service.
In the U.S., meanwhile, President Donald Trump claimed late on Thursday he had seen evidence backing claims — popular on far-right media networks in the country — that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan.
Asked to clarify, Trump said: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
The claim contradicted a statement made hours earlier by U.S. intelligence agencies that they determined the virus “was not manmade or genetically modified.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said he had no information to support the theory that the virus came out of a lab, Reuters reported, after his government expressed support for an international inquiry into the outbreak.