The call was voiced in an open letter published on June 28 by an association known as the Paris Group. The open letter has 31 signatories. They consist of doctors, scientific researchers and professors from 11 different countries: the United States, Spain, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, India, Germany, France, Canada, Austria and Australia.
"We still have no idea whether SARS-CoV-2 has a totally natural origin or if the virus went into a laboratory and there was an accident," said Virginie Courtier, one of the signatories. Courtier is an evolutionary geneticist and research director of the Institut Jacques Monod, a biological research institute in Paris.
An earlier report by the World Health Organization's (WHO) investigative team that visited Wuhan a year after the initial outbreak published inconclusive findings. Further doubts were raised when it was revealed that key members of the team had clear conflicts of interest.
"We believe that the joint study process that the WHO is currently calling for, in its current form, does not satisfy the conditions to be credible due to serious structural gaps," wrote the letter's signatories.
The Paris Group explained that the Chinese government took significant measures to hide the true origins of COVID-19 and to stop even their own medical and biological experts from sharing crucial data and information regarding the virus.
"Failure to have an in-depth inquiry into the origins of a pandemic will cause us, and future generations, to run needless risks," the letter read.
The Paris Group suggests two possible ways an inquiry could be conducted: one held with the cooperation of the Chinese government, and one option that would be proposed should Chinese authorities refuse to cooperate.
If Beijing is willing to cooperate, it and other countries must guarantee that any investigation will be independent, data-driven and look into every single plausible option for the origin of COVID-19. This includes both natural and engineered origins. Chinese authorities must not engage in surveillance of the investigators and translators provided to the team must be independent and devoid of any potential conflicts of interest.
This investigative team would be a multidisciplinary group of experts. It must avoid conflicts of interest as much as possible. With the help of Chinese authorities, this team must be given the means to conduct a proper and thorough scientific inquiry. This means being granted access to all relevant files, data and samples.
"We sincerely hope that, for the good of humanity, the Chinese government will join us in such a complete and scientific inquiry process, as an equal partner."
If Beijing is unwilling to cooperate with another investigation, the Paris Group suggests that nations band together into an intergovernmental organization like the G7 or the OECD to coordinate the opening of an investigation using all available data at hand. (Related: China engaged in a "massive coverup" – stonewalls international investigation into the Wuhan lab.)
The Paris Group recognizes that such an inquiry would be limited by a lack of files and other important data only available in China. Despite this obstacle, an investigation could still be conducted and could still reveal a lot about COVID-19's origins. The Paris Group highlighted the fact that many governments, organizations and individuals have already gathered and started to analyze "significant quantities of pertinent data."
"A well-organized and concerted effort, free of interference, drawing on all available sources of information and involving a large number of experts, may well end up providing unambiguous evidence supporting one particular hypothesis regarding the origins of the pandemic."
The Paris Group's open letter is the fourth such letter issued this year calling for a new independent and thorough investigation into the origins of COVID-19.