WHO chief says COVID-19 lab leak theory possible; China responds
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has acknowledged the possibility of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 leaking from a laboratory. Undermining WHO's own March report, in which it concluded that a laboratory leak was "extremely unlikely," Dr. Tedros told reporters in Geneva that it would be "premature" to rule out the link between the virus and laboratory leak. Here are more details.
Dr. Tedros told reporters that the WHO is "asking China to be transparent, open and cooperate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for at the early days of the pandemic." He also alleged that China did not share this data with the WHO team during the first investigation and called for clear information on China's laboratory in Wuhan.
Stating that the "lab leak" theory can be omitted only if the agency gets all the information, he said, "We need information, direct information on what the situation of this lab was before and at the start of the pandemic." "I was a lab technician myself. I'm an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen. It's common," he said.
Dr. Tedros's comments came at a time when the idea that the pandemic started in a Chinese laboratory is gaining momentum once again. US President Joe Biden had also ordered intelligence to probe the possibility in May. This was preceded by US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci's comment that he is not totally convinced that the virus was "developed naturally."
China responded to this changed stand of the WHO and denied that international experts were not given adequate information to investigate. It also reminded the WHO of its March report, where it stated that the "lab leak leading the outbreak is extremely unlikely."
Last year, China had allowed international experts led by the WHO to investigate the coronavirus' origins. The Associated Press had then reported that the WHO was frustrated by the lack of details shared by China. Experts had also called for an independent probe and had questioned the WHO for its failure to extract critical details about the pandemic from China.