Andy Slavitt, one of the President’s coronavirus advisers, said on Tuesday that the investigation conducted earlier this year by the World Health Organization had not done enough to explain how the disease began to spread. spread in humans.
He told reporters, “We need to get to the bottom of this and we need a fully transparent process from China. We need the WHO to help him in this area. We don’t feel like we have that now.
China has angrily rejected US calls for an investigation into the possibility of the Covid virus escaping from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a theory that state media described as “a conspiracy created by American intelligence ”.
Slavitt was speaking after a Wall Street Journal report claimed three scientists at the Wuhan lab fell ill with Covid-19-like symptoms in November, a month before the first official case was reported.
Scientists working for the WHO reported in March that it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus had escaped from the lab and that it was much more likely to spread from animals to humans.
However, some scientists were quick to criticize the report, which was facilitated by China, while Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, admitted it was not comprehensive enough. Tedros said WHO scientists had encountered difficulty accessing “raw data” from China, which has consistently denied the laboratory leak hypothesis.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday he still believes the disease is more likely to spread from animals to humans.
But he added: “But we don’t know 100% the answer to that. . . [and] it is imperative that we look and investigate.
Fauci has also been targeted by Chinese state media. He “was stoking a huge lie against China,” wrote Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the official newspaper of the People’s Daily Communist Party. The theory of a laboratory accident is “a conspiracy created by US intelligence agencies and the media to slander China,” he added. “Is it a coincidence that Fauci repeated such lines?”
The World Health Assembly, which sets WHO’s policy, holds its annual meeting in Geneva, at which members are expected to discuss the next phase of the organization’s investigation.
The WSJ’s claims, meanwhile, have refocused attention on the theory of laboratory leaks. The newspaper reported that a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report claimed that the three researchers at the Wuhan lab became so ill in 2019 that they sought hospital treatment. On Monday, the White House said it had “no way” to verify the report.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday rejected the intelligence report’s accuracy and said that no staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been infected until December 2019.
“What is the real purpose of the United States in continuing to play on the so-called laboratory leak theory?” Does he really care about finding the origin of the virus or does he just want to distract? ” He asked.
Researchers at the Wuhan lab last week published a research paper claiming that virus strains found in bats in southwest China were “just the tip of the iceberg” for ancestors. potentials of Sars-Cov-2. They added that the strains were unlikely to be ancestors of the virus without first infecting an animal intermediate host.
Shi Zhengli, the leading coronavirus expert at the Wuhan Institute of Virology whose work on bat viruses has been at the center of laboratory theories, was one of the authors.
The bat viruses studied in the article, which was not peer-reviewed, lacked the ability to bind to proteins known as human ACE2 receptors, which are an important part of the ability of Sars-Cov-2 to infect people, and therefore “exhibits little potential human fallout without future adaptation,” the authors wrote.
Latest news on coronaviruses
Follow FT’s live coverage and analysis of the global pandemic and rapidly evolving economic crisis here.