Thursday, 13 June, 2024
HomeNews UpdateWHO urges countries to make public their info on Covid origins

WHO urges countries to make public their info on Covid origins

After recent FBI claims about a Wuhan lab leak being responsible for the spread of Covid-19, followed by furious denials from Beijing, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged all countries to disclose what they know about the origins of the pandemic, reports News24.

MedicalBrief recently quoted FBI director Christopher Wray telling The Wall Street Journal that the FBI had now assessed the source of Covid-19 pandemic and that it was “most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan”.

He said the FBI had teams of experts spanning across topics that assess the threats posed by various actors. “…and here we’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese-government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans”.

However, China scoffed at his comments, with officials angrily denying the claim and calling it a smear campaign against Beijing.

“The origins-tracing of SARS-CoV-2 is about science and should not be politicised,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

“China has always supported and participated in global science-based origins-tracing,” she said, adding that a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be “extremely unlikely” according to the “science-based, authoritative conclusion reached by experts of the WHO-China joint mission after field trips to the Wuhan lab and in-depth communication with researchers”.

The Chinese Government described the lab leak theory as “political manipulation” and urged the US to respect “science and facts”.

Certain parties should stop rehashing the “lab leak” narrative, stop smearing China and stop politicising origins-tracing, Mao added.

“Based on the poor track record of fraud and deception of the US intelligence community, the conclusions they draw have no credibility whatsoever,” she added .

“If any country has information about the pandemic’s origins, it’s essential for that information to be shared with WHO and the international scientific community,” said the WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This is not to apportion blame but to advance our understanding of how this pandemic started so we can prevent, prepare for and respond to future epidemics and pandemics,” he told a press conference, adding that “WHO has not abandoned any plans to identify the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

In 2021, the UN health agency set up the so-called Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, identifying critical studies needed in China and elsewhere to test hypotheses on the pandemic’s origins.

WHO urges transparency 

“WHO continues to call for China to be transparent in sharing data and to conduct … investigations and share the results,” said Tedros, adding that he had written and spoken to top Chinese leaders on multiple occasions.

“Until then, all hypotheses remain on the table.”

While the US Department of Energy had determined that a leak was probably responsible, other agencies within the US intelligence community believe the virus emerged naturally.

‘Low confidence’ assessment 

The FBI chief’s statement follows the US Department of Energy’s (DoE) “low confidence” assessment that the pandemic was the result of an unintended laboratory leak in China, as reported in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) over the weekend.

The WSJ report stated that the DoE’s claim is a result of new classified intelligence in its possession, which has been submitted to the US Congress. This is reportedly an update to its 2021 document which said that the department was “undecided” on the origins of the pandemic.

Apart from the FBI and DoE, other members of the US Intelligence community have attributed the origins of the pandemic to various other causes, such as zoonotic spillover. Two of the agencies are undecided.

According to a US National Intelligence Overview document published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), a low confidence level indicates that “the information used in the analysis is scant, questionable, fragmented, or that solid analytical conclusions cannot be inferred from the information, or that the Intelligence Community has significant concerns or problems with the information sources”.

Lack of concrete evidence 

The FBI and the DoE have evoked a barrage of responses from the scientific community, reports Health Policy Watch.

Pointing out that their latest statements are based on classified information, Dr Angela Rassmussen, a virologist and a research scientist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan, tweeted that there is still no publicly available evidence to suggest the Covid-19 pandemic was caused by a lab accident.

She said the “low confidence” level attributed to the latest statement by the DoE raises doubts about the strength of the evidence in its possession.

Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist and associate professor at the University of Leeds, echoed Rasmussen’s thoughts.  “If there’s something that’s changed in the evidence base, let’s hear it. Otherwise, there remains not a shred of meaningful evidence that SARS2 was engineered or leaked. End of,” he tweeted.

WHO demands more Chinese co-operation

However, the origins of the pandemic are far from conclusive and the WHO has been at the forefront of investigations, demanding more co-operation from China to help the world better understand how the pandemic originated.

In January, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the Covid-19 technical lead at the WHO, said the agency was working with China to fill some “very important information gaps”.

“We have requested further information to have those sequences shared publicly so a deeper analysis and more phylogenetic analysis can be done …to look at mutation by mutation to assess what is circulating there,” she added.

In February 2020, as the SARS-CoV-2 began spreading, the WHO set up a team of 25 national and international experts to visit China to understand the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. The subsequent report released by the WHO said that the possibility of the pandemic originating from a lab accident was low.

 

Health Policy Watch article – China Dismisses FBI Chief’s Claim That COVID-19 ‘Most Likely’ Originated From Lab Leak (Open access)

 

News24 article – WHO urges countries to come clean on Covid-19 origins intel (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Wuhan virus escape probably accidental – US agencies

 

New studies point COVID origin evidence to Wuhan wet market

 

Wuhan scientists planned to release coronavirus into bat caves: Leaked papers

 

 

 

 

 

MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.