WHO says ‘all hypotheses’ warrant investigation ahead of report into origins of COVID-19

WHO says ‘all hypotheses’ warrant investigation ahead of report into origins of COVID-19

03/29/2021

London: The head of the World Health Organisation says “all hypotheses” warrant further investigation, ahead of the official release of a report into the origins of coronavirus.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was responding to reports citing a leaked draft version of the report, which said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was most likely transmitted from animals to humans, before infecting at least 127 million people worldwide and killing more than 2.7 million people.

WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Credit:AP

The report, which is set to be officially released on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT), said that the likelihood of a lab leak was “extremely unlikely”, according to the leaked draft.

The report is based largely on a visit by a WHO team of international experts to Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected, from mid-January to mid-February. Researchers on that trip had earlier presented similar preliminary findings, drawing the ire of critics who accuse the organisation of pro-China bias.

The leaked draft of the report listed four scenarios in order of likelihood for the emergence of the new coronavirus, according to AP, which said it had obtained a copy via a Geneva-based diplomat.

Topping the list was transmission from bats through another animal, which the researchers said was likely to very likely.

They said direct spread from bats to humans was likely, and said that spread to humans from the packaging of “cold-chain” food products was possible but not likely.

Dr Tedros confirmed that he had received the full mission report on the weekend and that it was sent to member states ahead of its public release on Tuesday.

“I think the best [thing] would be to listen to the experts tomorrow, so listening to them will be very, very important,” he told a virtual news conference from WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.

“But as I have said, all hypotheses are on the table and warrant complete and further studies from what [we] have seen so far.

“Of course I will have more to say following further review and understanding of the report but for now all hypotheses will be on the table and will need further study.”

The report is keenly awaited by the Australian government, which pushed for the inquiry at the World Health Assembly last year.

China has subsequently punished Australian exporters with bans and hikes in tariffs on a range of products including barley, wine, coal and lobsters.



WHO was strongly criticised when its first briefing on the matter appeared to rule out the possibility of the virus having leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – a theory strongly advanced, without evidence, by the former Trump administration.

Trump withdrew the United States from the WHO, claiming the UN body had been compromised by China.

That decision was swiftly reversed by President Joe Biden. But Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken have both questioned the WHO’s processes used to all but rule out the lab theory and rule in the possibility of the virus being spread through the cold food supply chain.

China initially blocked some members of the WHO mission from the country and has been accused, including by some scientists, of strictly controlling the investigation.

Blinken told CNN on the weekend that Beijing “helped write” the WHO’s report.

“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” he told State of the Union.

“But let’s see what comes out in that report. We do need to have both accountability for the past – but I think our focus needs to be on building a stronger system for the future,” Blinken said.

China continued to push an unfounded theory that the virus began in the United States and was imported into Wuhan.

“When will the US show the same openness & transparency as China? When will it invite WHO experts in to investigate? When will it open up Fort Detrick to international experts for probe or research?” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao said.

with AP

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