W.H.O. Is Confused: Tedros Queries Own Coronavirus Report, Revives Wuhan Lab Leak Theory

On the same day the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) finally released its report into the origins of coronavirus and posited the theory China may not be responsible, the organization’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revived a claim it could have leaked from a lab in Wuhan as all options remain open.

A study by W.H.O. and Chinese experts released Tuesday had judged the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis highly unlikely, saying the virus behind Covid-19 had probably jumped from bats to humans via an intermediary animal, as Breitbart News reported.

Beijing applauded the report, seeing it as confirmation of its handling of the investigation following allegations it had tried to delay and then restrict it.

The report also initially appeared to back China’s firm rejection of theories the pandemic may have been triggered by a leak from a virology lab in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus first emerged.

It is “extremely unlikely” the coronavirus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, and is more likely to have jumped to humans from an animal, W.H.O. investigators said Tuesday. https://t.co/wush1l4IjD

— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) February 10, 2021

But W.H.O. chief Tedros reopened the lab leak theory, with AFP reporting he raised concerns about the level of access China provided to the experts during their visit to Wuhan in January.

“In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data,” Tedros said, while calling for “timely and comprehensive data sharing” in future investigations.

Tedros also said although the experts concluded the laboratory leak was the “least likely” hypotheses, this theory needed to be probed further.

“I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough,” Teodros said of the possibility of a leak. “This requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy.”

Tedros then emphasised no theory had yet been ruled out, saying  “Let me say clearly that as far as W.H.O. is concerned all hypotheses remain on the table.”

The United States on Tuesday released a joint statement with 13 of its allies — Britain, Japan, the UK and Australia among them — saying the inquiry lacked the data and samples it needed.

“We join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent W.H.O.-convened study in China,” the statement read, with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) later stating the U.S. should partner with other nations to threaten to pull funding from the W.H.O. unless there is a full, independent investigation of the origins of the coronavirus.

On the laboratory accident hypothesis, the head of the investigation team, Danish scientist Ben Embarek told reporters Chinese lab staff had acknowledged they initially feared a leak.

“Even the staff in these labs told us that was their first reaction,” Embarek said. “They all went back to their records… but 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.”

That said, Embarek added: “We haven’t done a full investigation or audit of any of the labs.”

Other W.H.O. team members took to Twitter to defend the probe from its critics.

Peter Daszak, who was effusive in praise of his Chinese Communist Party hosts during the January probe, hit out at the “pure politics” being played by those who questioned the findings of his group.

AFP contributed to this story

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Simon Kent