W.H.O. Chief Tedros: Probe into Wuhan Lab ‘Not Extensive Enough’

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World Health Organization (W.H.O.) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday said a W.H.O. investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in a report on Tuesday, was not “extensive enough.”

Ghebreyesus made the remarks on March 30 while announcing the release of the W.H.O.’s report on the origins of the Chinese coronavirus. The report was compiled from data collected by a W.H.O. expert team in January in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the origin of the Chinese coronavirus.

“The team also visited several laboratories in Wuhan and considered the possibility that the virus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident,” Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday. “However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”

“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” the W.H.O. chief added. “We will keep you informed as plans progress, and as always, we very much welcome your input.”

Elsewhere in his statement, Tedros stated that members of the Wuhan investigative team expressed frustration with the limited access the Chinese Communist Party gave to pivotal medical information, including raw data regarding cases of infection documented in the early days of the Wuhan outbreak.

“In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data. I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing,” Tedros said.

The World Health Organization released its long-delayed report on the origins of the Chinese coronavirus on Tuesday, over a year after Taiwan first alerted the W.H.O. of an outbreak of a novel virus. The first known case of the disease emerged in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, according to the Chinese government, though subsequent evidence suggests the virus may have been present in China as early as October.

Health experts believe the Chinese coronavirus likely originated in bats, but exactly how the virus first leaped from animal to human remains unknown. The W.H.O. report stated it found no evidence of an animal reservoir of the virus and suggested that an intermediary animal transferring the virus from its origin species to humans is the likeliest origin scenario. It concluded that a leak of a specimen at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, known to be studying bat coronaviruses, was highly unlikely to be the origin of the virus, citing Chinese government assurances that safety protocols at the facility were high. The report explicitly states that experts did not consider the possibility that scientists deliberately released the virus from the institute.

A W.H.O. expert team arrived in China to compile the origins report on January 14, more than a year after the first case of the Chinese coronavirus disease first surfaced, due to multiple diplomatic hold-ups by China. By then, Chinese officials had confirmed they had destroyed key evidence surrounding the outbreak, including early samples of the virus.


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