German Foreign Minister Urges Chinese Transparency Over Coronavirus: 'The Whole World Wants the Exact Origin'

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass has called on China to ensure total transparency over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, amid calls for an investigation into the outbreak and accusations of a cover-up leveled at Beijing.

Mass—a member of the Social Democratic Party which is governing in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party—told German media group Funke on Monday that the "whole world" wants to know how the novel coronavirus originated in China and spread worldwide.

"The whole world wants the exact origin of the virus to be clarified," Maas said, adding that China's response will show "how transparent it wants to be with the virus."

The COVID-19 outbreak began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, quickly spreading worldwide and forcing nations around the world into social lockdowns and economic chaos. More than 3.5 million infections have been confirmed around the world, with more than 247,000 people killed by the illness, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Initially, the virus was thought to have appeared at a market in the city where live wildlife is sold alongside foodstuffs. Here, it was theorized that the virus could have jumped from bats to an intermediary animal such as pangolins, before being passed to humans. The exact mode of transmission remains unclear.

But some—including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pomepo—have zeroed in on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a few miles away from the market. Trump and Pompeo have both claimed—thus far without providing evidence—that the virus spread after escaping the facility.

U.S. intelligence officials are investigating the theory, though have said the virus is not manmade or otherwise genetically modified. The New York Times has reported that the Trump administration has pressured spies to lend weight to the lab theory, which China has rejected as propaganda.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last month that "all the available evidence" points to animal origin of the virus. The United Nations body—which Trump and Pompeo have attacked for supposedly acquiescing to China's alleged cover-up—said it would participate in investigations of coronavirus' origins "at the invitation of the Chinese government."

European Union nations have been less combative than their U.S. allies, though multiple lawmakers have criticized China's alleged failings. Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on Beijing to allow an international probe of COVID-19's origins.

"You never know when the next virus is starting," von der Leyen told CNBC. "We have learned our lesson and we've established a system of early warning that really functions and the whole world has to contribute to that." Von der Leyen added that transparency is "for all of us important, I mean for the whole world it is important."

China has been accused of trying to conceal initial signs of the virus, silencing whistleblower doctors and underreporting the scale and severity of the outbreak. Beijing has also been accused of failing to notify the WHO and international community of the pandemic threat, while also spreading disinformation maligning the response of other nations.

Heiko Mass, coronavirus, origins, China, transparency, EU
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends the weekly government cabinet meeting during the coronavirus crisis on April 22, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Filip Singer - Pool /Getty Images/Getty