The head of the World Health Organization has called for further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. A report published on Tuesday, by WHO and Chinese experts, has judged the lab-leak hypothesis highly unlikely. However, the potential leak “requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts”, said Tedros.
Yesterday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the laboratory leak was the “least likely” hypotheses, but still needed “further investigation”. The director said as far as WHO are concerned, “all hypotheses remain on the table”, as the report leaves several unanswered questions.
Tedros has urged a deeper investigation into the potential leak and rebuked China for sitting on key data. It has been reported that China shielded international experts from examining its early response to the outbreak in Wuhan.
China has always rejected the thought of the virus originating from the Wuhan lab and was also ruled out by WHO’s international experts. However, their long-delayed report did point to the possible transmission of COVID-19 to humans from animals, either directly or through an intermediate animal host.
Peter Ben Embarek, Head of WHO’s team of experts, said the scientists looked at all the arguments for and against for each hypothesis. While discussing their findings at Tuesday’s press conference, Embarek said the team “tried to stay away from suspicions” while conducting their research. Embarek said no “firm evidence” was found that any lab had been involved in a leak accident related to the pandemic. “Lab accidents do happen . . . so of course it’s possible. But we have not been able to hear or see or look at anything that would warrant a different conclusion.”
Tedros immediately questioned the findings following their publishing, telling WHO’s 194 member states that the conclusions were not definitive. Tedros said he did not believe that the assessment of the lab leak was extensive enough and said, “further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”
Several countries such as the United States, Britain and Japan have called on China to be more open with their data, something Tedros strongly urged. He said the WHO team “expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data. I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing”.
The WHO team was able to confirm that there was widespread contamination with Sars-Cov-2 in the Huanan market in Wuhan. Although the team could not determine the source, Tedros added that the role of animal markets was still 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,” Tedros said. “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.”
You can read through the findings of WHO and China’s team of scientists here.