The head of the World Health Organisation acknowledged it was premature to rule out a potential link between the Covid-19 pandemic and a laboratory leak, and he said Thursday he is asking China to be more transparent as scientists search for the origins of the coronavirus.
In a rare departure from his usual deference to powerful member countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said getting access to raw data had been a challenge for the international team that traveled to China earlier this year to investigate the source of Covid-19. The first human cases were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Tedros said that the UN health agency based in Geneva is asking actually 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 said there had been a premature push to rule out the theory that the virus might have escaped from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan – undermining WHO’s own March report, which concluded that a laboratory leak was extremely unlikely. I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen, Tedros said.
China has struck back aggressively, arguing that attempts to link the origins of Covid-19 to a lab are politically motivated and has suggested that the outbreak might have started abroad.
At WHO’s annual meeting of health ministers in the spring, China said that the future search for Covid-19’s origins should continue — in other countries. Most scientists suspect that the coronavirus originated in bats, but the exact route by which it first jumped into people – via an intermediary animal or in some other way – has not yet been determined.