THE head of the World Health Organisation has said the Wuhan lab leak theory can’t be ruled out and that China should help solve the mystery of where Covid came from.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 56, urged more “transparency” from China in the ongoing investigation and suggested that Beijing had not fully co-operated.
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Where Covid-19 originated from has still not been established although two main theories have emerged – either from animal contact at a wet market in Wuhan or a leak from the research laboratory in the same Chinese city.
China has repeatedly stated it is not responsible for the global pandemic and dismissed conspiracy theories that say the virus was made by humans.
US President Joe Biden last month ordered US intelligence agencies to report in the next three months on whether Covid-19 emerged from an animal or during a laboratory accident.
Dr Tedros, speaking at a G7 summit briefing, said the possibility of it coming from a lab leak hadn’t been ruled out and that “every hypothesis should be open”.
He said that so far 3.75million people had died from the virus and at least 174m were confirmed to have contracted the disease.
He said: “I think the respect these people deserve is knowing what the origin of this virus is so that we can prevent it from happening again.”
Dr Tedros also suggested there had not been enough “transparency and co-operation” from China in the initial stages of the investigation.
He added: “We need cooperation from the Chinese side. We need transparency to understand and know or find the origins of this virus.
“There were difficulties in data sharing, especially raw data… (we) hope the next phase there will be better cooperation and transparency.”
Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said: “With regards to the origins of the virus, WHO views it as extremely important to understand the origins of this particular virus which has caused the global pandemic.
“There are many hypotheses for that origin and the international team which was sent to the team by Dr Tedros at the request of the World Health Assembly carried out a number of studies and investigations.
“All hypotheses still remain on the table.
“Further studies will be needed to elucidate the origins of the virus.
“We would like to move forward as quickly as possible with that second phase and bringing in further expertise, engaging with our member states to ensure that we have an appropriate terms of reference, an appropriate team and an appropriate approach where we can all move forward together in collaboration to understand the origins of the virus.”
Asked whether the Wuhan lab leak theory had been discussed at the summit, Dr Tedros said: “Yes, it was raised and we discussed about the origins.”
UK Government ministers have also put pressure on China to co-operate fully with the probe into the origins of the coronavirus.
Biden revealed last month two of the 18 intelligence agencies believe in the animal link but that another “leans more toward” the lab theory.
The president said that each of these agencies has “low or moderate confidence” in their stance.
Biden has also directed the US national laboratories to also assist with the investigation.
A bombshell report released by the Wall Street Journal alleged that three staffers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became ill and had to be hospitalized in November 2019, weeks before China disclosed the outbreak to the world.
A WHO task force spent four weeks investigating the outbreak in Wuhan in January and February.
The organisation concluded it was “extremely unlikely” that it was caused by a lab leak, but noted that further investigation is needed.
However, earlier this month a group of leading scientists said the possibility of coronavirus accidentally escaping from the Wuhan lab in China “remains viable.”
In a letter published in the journal Science, 18 researchers from Stanford, Harvard, MIT and Cambridge blasted the WHO and scientists who followed it for failing to consider that there may have been an “accidental” lab escape.