Coronavirus: WHO chief calls for further examination of laboratory accident thesis

PublishedMarch 31, 2021, 8:10 am

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is not satisfied with China’s willingness to cooperate in clarifying the origin of the novel coronavirus.

Wants more research: WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

AFP

After the publication of the expert report on the origins of the novel coronavirus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) called for further testing of the hypothesis of a laboratory accident in Wuhan. Further investigations are necessary for this, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday in Geneva. At the same time, he accused China of a lack of willingness to cooperate. The USA and 13 other countries also expressed their concern that the experts had been denied access to data.

The international experts who searched for the origins of the corona pandemic in Wuhan, China in January, classify in their report as “extremely unlikely” that the virus accidentally escaped from a laboratory. Therefore, they would not have followed this lead any further. The possibility of an intentional release of Sars-CoV-2 has not been investigated anyway.

“Difficulties in accessing raw data”

Tedros said he still sees a need for “further investigation” into the hypothesis of a laboratory accident. “Additional missions with specialized experts, which I am ready to send, are conceivable,” he said at a briefing for the WHO member states on the occasion of the official presentation of the report on the mission.

The WHO chief criticized China. The international experts encountered “difficulties in accessing raw data” on site. In the future, he expects “collaborative studies to share more timely and comprehensive data,” said Tedros.

The United States and 13 other countries also voiced concerns. The mission was “significantly delayed” and the experts were denied “access to complete, original data and samples,” said the 14 countries, including Australia, Great Britain, Japan and Canada, in a joint statement.

“We are not sharing these concerns just to learn as much as possible about the origins of this pandemic,” said the states. It is also about establishing a transparent procedure for future health crises. In their declaration, however, the countries refrained from expressly criticizing China.

EU: “Helpful first step”

In their final report, the WHO experts rated it as “likely to very likely” that Sars-CoV-2 was transferred from the bat to humans via an intermediate host animal. The authors of the report described a direct transfer to humans as “possible to probable”. Beijing’s preferred thesis, that the transmission to humans took place via frozen meat, is what the experts consider to be “possible”.

The EU described the WHO report as a “helpful first step”. However, further studies are needed to determine the origin of the pathogen and how the virus was transmitted to humans.

The former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, rejected the conclusions of the WHO experts. The report is the continuation of the joint “disinformation campaign” of the WHO and the Chinese Communist Party, wrote Pompeo on Twitter. The Institute of Virology in Wuhan is still the “most likely” place of origin of the virus for him.

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(AFP / fur)

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