As expected, the World Health Organization’s report on the origin of the novel coronavirus concluded that the lab-leak theory is highly unlikely, determining the virus probably was transmitted from bats to humans through an intermediary animal.
But after release of the report Tuesday, WHO General Secretary Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed that China curbed access to the raw data, and he insisted the lab-leak theory should be investigated further.
“In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data,” Tedros said in an interview with Agence-France Presse.
Regarding the possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic was the result of a leak from a lab, such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the WHO chief said he does “not believe that this assessment was extensive enough.”
“This requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” he said.
“Let me say clearly that as far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table.”
On Tuesday, the United States released a joint statement with Britain, Japan, Australia and 10 other allies “expressing shared concerns” about the WHO investigation.
The head of the WHO team, Danish scientist Ben Embarek told reporters that Chinese lab workers said they initially feared a leak.
But they “all went back to their records,” and “nobody could find any trace of something similar to this virus in their records or their samples.”
“Nobody has been able to pick up any firm arguments or proof or evidence that any of these labs would have been involved in a lab leak accident,” he said.
‘We haven’t done a full investigation’
But Embarek made a significant admission.
“We haven’t done a full investigation or audit of any of the labs,” he said.
In the early days of the outbreak, the Chinese government blocked investigators from the U.S. and other nations. And a year later, in January 2021, China blocked the arrival of the WHO team, claiming that their visas had not yet been approved. The Guardian of London noted China blocked the team even though it “was not intending to probe claims that the virus originated in a Chinese lab.”
A WHO adviser confirmed to “60 Minutes” in a segment that aired Sunday that the WHO report can’t be trusted because the investigation essentially was conducted by China itself.
The WHO team spent only three hours at the Wuhan lab, and while they were there, said Jamie Metzl, the investigators “didn’t demand access to the records and samples and key personnel.”
The U.N. agency agreed that China even had veto power over who was on the team and, Metzl said, “in most instances, China would do the primary investigation and then just share its findings with international experts.”
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month the Chinese government controlled the WHO investigation, dictating the team members and what they were allowed to see. The WHO also is allowing Chinese officials to review the final report and make changes.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview last month that declassified U.S. intelligence indicates the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
He said there are three facts that support the lab-leak theory: “the fact that it is possible they were working on a virus similar to the one that we now are suffering from, second, that inadequate biosafety measures at the facility, and then third, the massive, intentional cover-up coming from the most senior levels of the Chinese Communist Party.”
And last week, former CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with CNN he believes the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab.
Asked to respond to Redfield’s remarks, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said it was Redfield’s opinion, and “most public health officials” think the novel coronavirus didn’t come from a lab.
However, Fauci was a major promoter of U.S. funding of a highly controversial and dangerous type of research at the Wuhan lab Called “gain of function” research, Newsweek reported in April 2020. The research centers on manipulating viruses to explore their potential for infecting humans so that treatments can be developed in advance.
Under the Trump administration in mid-January, the State Department issued a fact sheet contending Wuhan lab researchers “conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar).”
Based on information from the intelligence community, the State Department said the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” And the lab “has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military.”
Pompeo told the Washington Examiner it is “absolutely imperative when this report comes out we understand the basis for the data, because I fear that in the end, this report will not be remotely reflective of what actually transpired.”
He said he doesn’t believe the investigators “had either the capacity or the access necessary to actually conduct a thorough investigation of how this Wuhan virus ultimately commenced.”
A member of the WHO investigative team, British zoologist Dr. Peter Daszak, appears as an author on at least 25 studies affiliated with a funding entity or author linked to a Chinese Communist Party think tank, university or government ministry, the National Pulse reported last Thursday.
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