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Slow Release of Viral Sequence

China held off on releasing the SARS-CoV-2 genome for more than a week back in January, a move that vexed World Health Organization officials, the Associated Press reports

It adds that three different government labs had sequenced the viral genome, but that they only released it after another lab did. According to the AP, China was then slow to provide the WHO with data on patients and cases.

US President Donald Trump has rebuked the WHO for being beholden to China — going so far as to announce the departure of the US from the WHO — while China has said it has provided the agency with data in a timely manner, but the AP says its investigation "does not support the narrative of either the US or China, but instead portrays an agency now stuck in the middle that was urgently trying to solicit more data despite limited authority."

The AP notes that the delay in the release of the SARS-CoV-2 genome and patient data at such an early stage of the outbreak may have affected other countries' abilities to discern its spread. "It's obvious that we could have saved more lives and avoided many, many deaths if China and the WHO had acted faster," the University of Washington's Ali Mokdad tells the AP. Mokdad notes, though, that if the WHO had pushed China too hard, it might have led to the agency getting no information and even worse outcomes.

According to Reuters, China has rejected the AP's account. During a daily briefing, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the report was untrue, it adds.