India on Thursday said the World Health Organization-convened global report on the origin of the coronavirus pandemic was an important first step, but called for further studies, including on an understanding of the earliest human cases and clusters.

“We share the need for a comprehensive and expert-led mechanism that would expeditiously investigate the origin of Covid-19 in cooperation with all stakeholders,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, according to a statement.

On March 30, the WHO released its long-awaited report compiled by the health body and China, which said Covid-19 was most likely transmitted from bats to humans through another animal. The researchers left unresolved the question of where the coronavirus originated, but called the possibility that it leaked from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan “extremely unlikely”.

At the same time, the report also recommended that additional research was needed for a more complete picture of the origins of the coronavirus. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the study was “a very important beginning, but it is not the end”, and that “no single research trip can provide all the answers”.

“Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again,” the health body chief had told a briefing.

However, the release of the report prompted several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia, to express concern about whether investigators involved in the study had access to all the data. In a joint statement, the countries also called for “a robust, comprehensive, and expert-led mechanism”, and greater transparency, when investigating pandemics.

In its statement on Thursday, India echoed the view, and stressed on the need for next-phase studies to study the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We join other stakeholders in voicing their expectations that follow up to the WHO report or further studies, including on an understanding of the earliest human cases and clusters by the WHO on this critical issue, will receive the fullest cooperation of all concerned,” the MEA said.

The statement noted that the WHO report itself had stressed on “the need for further data and studies to reach robust conclusions”.

“It is pertinent to note that the Director General of the WHO has separately raised the issue of delays and difficulties in accessing raw data for the team conducting the study,” the foreign ministry added. “We fully support the Director General’s expectation that future collaborative studies will include more timely and comprehensive data sharing.”

India added that it would continue to work with the WHO to strengthen capacity and improve global health security so that the present report and further studies will provide valuable inputs on developing protocols and building a knowledge base and expertise to respond to the next global pandemic.

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Coronavirus was most likely transmitted from bats to humans via another animal, says WHO report