The World Health Organization (WHO) is struggling to advance its widely requested investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic due to a lack of cooperation from China, the agency’s head said Thursday, calling on other countries to join in their quest for greater transparency.
In a morning media briefing, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, China has yet to share raw data on the start of the pandemic, which is crucial for the next phase of its investigation.
The first phase of the investigation “has shown great progress,” said Ghebreyesus, referring to a joint study published a few weeks ago by the WHO and China that found that the virus that causes Covid-19 had been eliminated as early as October 2019 – two months – May have spread in China before the first case was identified in Wuhan.
But the next step, for which the agency has not yet published detailed proposals, requires a level of cooperation that China has so far refused, according to the WHO chief.
Ghebreyesus said he would shortly begin discussing phase two of the investigation with WHO member states and encouraged other countries to push for more transparency from China.
“Checking out what happened in our labs in particular is important and we need information, direct information, about what the situation of this lab was like before and at the start of the pandemic,” said Ghebreyesus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the lab in which there is some suggestion that the virus may have leaked.
In the last few months there has been a renewed attempt to get to the bottom of the origins of the coronavirus. While no conclusions were drawn, top researchers have long claimed that the most likely explanation is that the virus came from an animal, likely a bat. In recent months, however, the theory that Covid-19 leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan instead has continued to gain momentum, prompting President Biden to urge intelligence agencies to “redouble their efforts” to investigate the virus’s origin .
What to look out for
Growing doubts about WHO’s ability to successfully investigate the origins of the pandemic. According to an Associated Press report earlier this month, an increasing number of scholars have been questioning whether the UN agency should do the investigation, given that it does not have the power to force China to cooperate.
“Proof of the Covid Lab leak hypothesis: Why it is not that simple” (Forbes)
“Experts ask whether WHO should lead the investigation into the origin of the pandemic” (The Associated Press)
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