WHO halts interim report on coronavirus origins amid growing pushback
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An interim report by the World Health Organization (WHO) summarizing the investigation into the origin of the coronavirus outbreak in China has been dropped, reported the Wall Street Journal Thursday.
Fox News could not immediately reach the WHO, but top scientists on the investigative team said the public’s demand for answers was too great to be supported in an interim report.
"By definition, a summary report does not have all the details," Peter Ben Embarek told the New York-based publication. "So since there [is] so much interest in this report, a summary only would not satisfy the curiosity of the readers."
Following the team’s return from their month-long trip in China earlier this year, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus initially said an interim report would be released within the coming weeks, with a full report to follow.
The WHO’s investigation has been criticized as having been limited in scope and potentially compromised by the Chinese government.
A group of international scientists called for a new independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal Thursday, questioning the "scientific independence" of the Chinese individuals involved in the joint investigation.
"Although the ‘collaborative’ process of discovery mandated by the World Health Assembly … was meant to enable a full examination of the origins of the pandemic, we believe that structural limitations built into this endeavor make it all but impossible for the WHO-convened mission to realize this aspiration," the group of 26 scientists concluded.
The letter further highlights "that international members of the joint team had to rely on information the Chinese authorities chose to share with them, and that any joint team report must be approved by both the Chinese and international members of the joint team."
The group questioned the ability of the investigation to adequately research the virus’ origin and answer whether or not the coronavirus pandemic was the result of "natural spillover or [a] laboratory/ research related incident."
The WHO’s investigation was first scrutinized when Embarek said any theory regarding an escaped virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was "extremely unlikely."
U.S. officials in the Trump and Biden administration have voiced their frustration at China’s continued resistance at transparency regarding the coronavirus.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with PBS Wednesday, "China has not been fully and effectively transparent, either at the start of this crisis, when it mattered most, or even today as investigations are going forward trying to get to the bottom of what happened."
China in turn has called for additional investigations into theories they have pushed regarding the virus having started outside of China and transferred into Wuhan on frozen foods.
But U.S. officials in the food and drug industry have pushed back on the suggestion that frozen foods could be the carrier of COVID-19.
The WHO team arrived in China in January for a one-month trip, but two weeks of the investigatory trip were spent in quarantine, reported Reuters. The scientists were then supervised by Chinese guides and prevented from speaking with community members due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"We cannot afford an investigation into the origins of the pandemic that is anything less than absolutely thorough and credible," the international group of scientists argued. "Efforts to date do not constitute a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation."