The World Health Organization team that visited Wuhan to investigate the origin of the coronavirus still hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a lab leak. Business Insider confirmed that the possibility is still on the table as far as the WHO is concerned:
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the lead scientist on the WHO’s mission to Wuhan, said that a lab-accident theory is “definitely not off the table.”
On February 11, after a WHO mission completed a four-week trip to China to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, WHO director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said: “I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study.”
A spokesman for the WHO told Insider in a Monday that this statement remains valid.
The final report on the trip to Wuhan should be published next week. An interim summary of the report that could have been published earlier was canceled. Also last week, a group of 26 scientists published an open letter calling for a full investigation into the origins of COVID, one which is not hampered by Chinese efforts to curate information. Here’s a bit of it:
Although the joint team investigation was a significant opportunity for the international community to gain some limited and highly curated information, it has unfortunately proven opaque and restrictive, greatly compromising the scientific validity of the investigation.
With more than two million deaths, more than a hundred million infected by COVID-19 worldwide, and a massive global disruption impacting some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, we cannot afford an investigation into the origins of the pandemic that is anything less than absolutely thorough and credible. If we fail to fully and courageously examine the origins of this pandemic, we risk being unprepared for a potentially worse pandemic in the future.
I read the letter last week and expected it would receive a strong pushback in the media. I was surprised to see that the Washington Post published an editorial echoing some of these same complaints over the weekend:
A joint inquiry by the World Health Organization and China has run into trouble, as a group of 26 scientists pointed out this week in an open letter to the WHO. Both the possibility of a zoonotic spillover from animal hosts and that of a laboratory accident need independent, expert investigation — and it is time for a new team to seriously tackle the laboratory hypothesis…
What’s needed is an independent, multidisciplinary and unfettered investigation into the origins of the outbreak, both the zoonotic and laboratory hypotheses. China’s obduracy is not going away. The WHO, a membership organization, lacks the powers to pry open closed doors in China, and there is not another good alternative. However, Dr. Tedros could appoint a new team of highly qualified international experts, including forensic specialists, to investigate the laboratory-leak hypothesis, and forcefully insist that China not stand in its way. If he openly challenged China on this matter, he would have the support of a world wanting to know how this nightmare began and how to prevent another.
Yes, you read that right. The Washington Post editorial board is calling for a serious, independent investigation of the lab leak theory instead of the obviously stage-managed conclusions we’re about to get from the WHO organized team. Kudos to the Post for refusing to go along with China’s PR exercise.
But counting on Dr. Tedros to stand up to China and force the issue by demanding a real investigation of the lab leak theory is a fools errand. He has been syncophantic in his treatment of China since the earliest days of the pandemic. So as satisfying as it might be to imagine Tedros growing a backbone, it’s not likely to happen at this late date. If we’re going to find out the real origin of the virus we should start by not looking to the WHO for answers.