COVID-19 lab leak theory needs study: WHO
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COVID-19 lab leak theory needs study: WHO

More than two years after the coronavirus was discovered in China and after at least 6.3 million deaths worldwide from the pandemic, the World Health Organization recommends in its strongest terms yet that further investigations should be carried out to determine whether a laboratory accident could be caused. Caused by guilt.

COVID-19 lab leak theory needs study: WHO

That stance marks a sharp turn of events from the United Nations health organization’s first assessment of the pandemic’s origins. It comes after many critics accused the WHO of being too quick to reject or downplay a lab leak theory that put Chinese officials on the defensive.

The WHO concluded last year that it was “extremely unlikely” that COVID-19 would have spread to humans in the city of Wuhan from a laboratory.

Many scientists suspect that the coronavirus jumped to humans via bats, possibly via another animal.

But in a report released Thursday, the WHO expert group said “key pieces of data” to explain how the pandemic started were still missing.

The scientists said the group would remain “open to any scientific evidence that becomes available in the future to allow for a comprehensive testing of all reasonable hypotheses.”

The WHO expert group also noted that since laboratory accidents have led to some outbreaks in the past, the highly politicized theory could not be ignored.

The report could revive allegations that the WHO initially accepted too many statements from the Chinese government at the outbreak’s start, which ultimately killed millions of people, sickened millions more, forced dozens of countries to shut down, and rocked the global economy.

Research by the Associated Press found that some top WHO insiders were frustrated with China during the initial outbreak, even as the WHO praised Chinese President Xi Jinping.

They were also appalled at how China was trying to curtail research into the origins of COVID-19.

The WHO expert group said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sent two letters to senior Chinese government officials in February asking for information, including details of the earliest human cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan city.

It is unclear whether Chinese officials have responded.

The experts said no studies have been provided to WHO assessing the possibility of COVID-19 due to a lab leak.

They said their understanding of how the coronavirus originated has been limited by several factors, including that not all Chinese scientists’ research has been published.

Jamie Metzl, a member of an unrelated WHO advisory group, has suggested the G7 countries set up their own investigations into the origins of COVID-19, saying WHO lacks the political authority, expertise, and independence to perform such a critical evaluation.

Metzl welcomed the WHO’s call for further investigation into the possibility of a lab leak but said it was insufficient.

“Tragically, the Chinese government still refuses to share vital raw data and does not allow the necessary full audit of Wuhan labs,” he said.

“Accessing this information is critical to understanding how this pandemic began and preventing future pandemics.”

The WHO’s expert scientists said numerous research opportunities were needed, including studies evaluating the role of wildlife and environmental studies in places where the virus may have first spread, such as the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan.

In March 2021, the WHO released a report on the origins of COVID-19 after a highly choreographed visit by international scientists to China.

The report concluded that the disease most likely jumped from bats into humans and that there was no evidence of a laboratory link.

But after much criticism, including from some scientists on the WHO team, WHO chief Tedros acknowledged it was “premature” to rule out a lab leak and said he had asked China to be more transparent in its information sharing.

In its new report, the WHO said the experts gained access to data that includes unpublished blood samples from more than 40,000 people in Wuhan in 2019.

The samples were tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

None were found, suggesting that the virus did not spread widely until it was first identified in late December of that year.

The WHO experts called for numerous studies, including wildlife testing, to discover which species may harbor COVID-19.

They also said the “cold chain” delivery theory needs to be explored.

China has previously suggested that traces of COVID-19 on frozen packaging caused outbreaks earlier than any domestic source, a theory widely panned by outside scientists.

To investigate whether COVID-19 may have resulted from a laboratory accident, experts said interviews should be held “with the personnel in the laboratories tasked with managing and implementing biosafety and biosecurity”.