WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there had been a “premature push” to dismiss a theory that the virus had escaped from a Chinese government laboratory in Wuhan, where the first human infections have been discovered.
His comments appear to contradict a WHO report released in March that said a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.”
“I myself was a laboratory technician, I am an immunologist,” said Dr Tedros. “I worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen. It’s usual. “
It is important to establish whether a laboratory played a role in the pandemic, he said, calling on China to be “transparent, open and to cooperate, especially on information – the raw data that we have requested. at the start of the pandemic ”. .
He added: “We need information – direct information on the situation in this laboratory before and at the onset of the pandemic.
“If we get complete information, we can exclude (the connection to the lab). “
German Health Minister Jens Spahn echoed the remarks, saying Chinese cooperation to date was “not yet sufficient”.
While many scientists believe COVID-19[feminine[feminine may have come from bats, the precise route it took to reach humans remains to be determined.
It can take decades to pinpoint the natural source of an animal virus like Ebola or SARS.
In recent months, however, the idea that COVID started in a lab, and may have been engineered, has gained traction.
In May, President Biden ordered a review of US intelligence to assess this possibility.
China rejected the claims, arguing they were politically motivated and suggesting the pandemic may have started overseas.
He said at the annual WHO health ministers meeting in the spring that there should be research into the origins of COVID in other countries.
Experts doubt the WHO will get the information it is asking for.
Professor Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University, who specializes in public health law, said the WHO has “no power or political clout to demand access to information essential for global health.”
He added: “All Dr Tedros can do is use the bullies pulpit, but it will fall on deaf ears. ”