The World Health Organisation on Monday said that comments by United States President Donald Trump that the coronavirus had emerged from a Chinese laboratory were “speculative”, and called for a science-based inquiry, AFP reported.

“We have not received any data or specific evidence from the United States government relating to the purported origin of the virus so from our perspective, this remains speculative,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual briefing in Geneva.

He also said the WHO as an “evidence-based organisation” was keen to receive any information on the origin of the virus as it was “exceptionally important” for its future control. “If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared, but it is difficult for the WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that regard,” Ryan added.

Beset by criticism of its response to the outbreak and management of the ensuing public health crisis, the Trump administration has, in turn, blamed China for the pandemic. On Sunday, the president said that China had made a “horrible mistake” without saying precisely what this was or providing specific evidence for his comments. On the same day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but did not provide any of the alleged evidence

Most experts believe the virus originated in a market, trading in wildlife, in Wuhan. However, it is unclear how the virus passed on from animals to people. Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO specialist in viruses, said it was important to determine this intermediate host.

Ryan said science, not politics, should be at the heart of exchanges with Chinese scientists on the matter, warning against projecting an “aggressive investigation of wrongdoing”, AP reported. “We need to understand that we can learn from Chinese scientists, we can learn from each other, we can exchange knowledge and we can find the answers together,” he added.

Chinese authorities have reportedly not allowed foreign experts, including investigators from the World Health Organisation, to take part in the investigation into the origins of the virus. They have also not shared samples taken from wild animals at the Wuhan livestock market where they claim the outbreak began late last year and has so far killed at least 2.51 lakh people in the world.

Follow today’s live updates on the pandemic here.