WHO chief requires extra inquiries after Wuhan probe fails to ship solutions

by akoloy

The head of the World Health Organization has known as for additional investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic after the report on its mission to the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan earlier this 12 months left essential questions unanswered.

“As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table,” mentioned Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO.

And 14 nations, together with the US and the UK, issued a joint assertion on Tuesday expressing “shared concerns” over the WHO examine.

The results of the investigation, reported by the Financial Times on Monday, concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” the pandemic had originated from a laboratory leak, and pointed to the potential transmission of Covid-19 to people from animals, both instantly or via an intermediate animal host.

Tedros instantly pushed again on the findings because the outcomes have been revealed on Tuesday, telling WHO member states the conclusions were not definitive.

“I do not believe that this assessment [of the lab-leak hypothesis] was extensive enough,” Tedros mentioned. “Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”

Although the staff had concluded {that a} lab leak was the least possible speculation, this required “further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts”, which Tedros mentioned he was able to deploy.

Tedros has repeatedly mentioned that each one choices stay into consideration, however Tuesday was the primary time he has brazenly mentioned the potential of a lab leak deserved additional examine. The lab leak speculation was first superior by US officers final 12 months however has been strongly rejected by China.

While broadly expressing assist for the organisation, the 14 nations who penned the joint letter mentioned they supported an unbiased evaluation “free from interference and undue influence” into the origins of the virus, echoing condemnation of an absence of entry to finish knowledge.

The White House mentioned that, whereas US specialists have been nonetheless reviewing the report, it appeared to lack “crucial data”.

“We don’t believe . . . that [the report] meets the moment, that it meets the impact this pandemic has had on the global community,” the White House mentioned. 

Peter Ben Embarek, head of the WHO staff that travelled to Wuhan, mentioned the scientists checked out “all the arguments for” and all “arguments against” for every of the hypotheses. “We tried to stay away from suspicions,” he mentioned at a press convention on Tuesday to debate the findings of the report.

Ben Embarek mentioned no “firm evidence” was discovered that any lab, in China or elsewhere, had been concerned in a leak accident associated to the pandemic. “Lab accidents do happen . . . so of course it’s possible,” he added. “But we have not been able to hear or see or look at anything that would warrant a different conclusion.”

In the early months of the pandemic, Tedros and the WHO have been accused by the US, then below former president Donald Trump, of being too delicate on China. The US and different nations have beforehand accused China of not sharing data rapidly sufficient that an outbreak was raging inside its borders. The WHO later struggled to get Chinese settlement to journey to Wuhan, earlier than dispatching a staff to town in January.

Tedros mentioned WHO scientists had encountered difficulties in accessing “raw data” from China, one thing that had provoked criticism of Beijing from the White House.

“The team reports that the first detected case had symptom onset on the eighth of December 2019. But to understand the earliest cases, scientists would benefit from full access to data including biological samples from at least September 2019,” Tedros mentioned. “I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing.”

The WHO staff was in a position to verify that there was widespread contamination with Sars-Cov-2 within the Huanan market in Wuhan however couldn’t decide the supply, he mentioned, including that the position of animal markets was nonetheless unclear.

“Further study will be important to identify what role farmed wild animals may have played in introducing the virus to markets in Wuhan and beyond,” he mentioned.

Further inquiries, as really helpful by the WHO report, would want to incorporate interviews with farmers, their suppliers and their contacts.

“We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” Tedros added.

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