It was “premature” to rule out COVID-19 laboratory leak theory, according to WHO chief – National – .

It was “premature” to rule out COVID-19 laboratory leak theory, according to WHO chief – National – .

The head of the World Health Organization admitted it was premature to rule out a potential link between the COVID-19 pandemic and a laboratory leak, and said Thursday he was asking China to be more transparent as scientists research the origins of the coronavirus.

In a rare departure from his usual deference to powerful member countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said accessing raw data had been a challenge for the international team that visited China earlier this year to investigate the source of COVID-19. The first human cases have been identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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WHO calls on China to be ‘transparent’ and provide raw data on origins of COVID-19

Tedros told reporters that the Geneva-based United Nations health agency “is actually asking China to be transparent, open and to cooperate, especially on the news, the raw data that we requested at the start of this year. the pandemic ”.

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He said there had been a “premature push” to dismiss the theory that the virus could have escaped from a Chinese government laboratory in Wuhan – undermining the WHO’s own report from March, which concluded that a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely”.

“I myself was a lab technician, I am an immunologist and I worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen,” Tedros said. ” It’s usual. “

In recent months, the idea that the pandemic somehow started in a lab – and possibly involved an artificial virus – has gained traction, particularly with President Joe Biden ordering a review of US intelligence to assess the possibility in May.

China has fought back aggressively, arguing that attempts to link the origins of COVID-19 to a lab were politically motivated and suggesting the virus could have started overseas. At the annual WHO health ministers meeting in the spring, China said future research into the origins of COVID-19 should continue – in other countries.

Most scientists suspect the coronavirus originated in bats, but the exact route it first jumped on humans – via an intermediate animal or otherwise – has not yet been determined. It usually takes decades to pinpoint the natural source of an animal virus like Ebola or SARS.

Tedros said “it’s important to check what happened, especially in our labs,” to determine if the pandemic had any lab links.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry Strongly Denies Wuhan Laboratory Linked to COVID-19 Outbreak

Chinese Foreign Ministry Strongly Denies Wuhan Laboratory Linked To COVID-19 Outbreak – June 4, 2021

“We need information, direct information on the situation of this laboratory before and at the start of the pandemic,” said the head of the WHO, adding that China’s cooperation was critical. “If we get complete information, we can exclude (the connection to the lab). “

Throughout the pandemic, Tedros has repeatedly praised China for its speed and transparency despite senior WHO officials complaining internally about their Chinese counterparts being obscured.

Last year, The Associated Press found that the WHO was frustrated with China’s lack of details during the early stages of the coronavirus spread and showed that China was cracking down on the hidden hunt for the origins of the pandemic.

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World Health Organization ill-equipped to probe the origins of COVID-19, experts say

Many public health experts have also called for an independent examination of the origins of COVID-19, arguing that the WHO does not have the political clout to conduct such a forensic analysis and that the UN agency has failed. after more than a year of extracting critical details from China.

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Any WHO-led mission to China also requires government approval for all experts visiting the country, as well as permission to visit field sites and final approval of any travel reports. WHO emergency chief Dr Michael Ryan has previously said the agency operates by consensus and cannot force countries to cooperate.

Tedros’ call for transparency was echoed by German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who urged Chinese authorities to allow further investigation into the origins of the virus.

“We appreciate the cooperation of the Chinese government so far for the first mission,” Spahn said. “But that’s not enough yet. “

– Cheng reported from London.

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© 2021 The Canadian Press


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