WHO Director: It was 'premature' to rule out lab leak because 'lab accidents happen'


World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has been nothing if not deferential to China in the past 18 months. But today he broke from that tradition and admitted his organization had been too quick to rule out the lab leak theory of the origin of the coronavirus:

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. “It’s common.”…

Tedros said that “checking what happened, especially in our labs, is important” to nailing down if the pandemic had any laboratory links.

“We need information, direct information on what the situation of this lab was before and at the start of the pandemic,” the WHO chief said, adding that China’s cooperation was critical. “If we get full information, we can exclude (the lab connection).”

He’s really not promoting the lab leak theory here, just acknowledging that we don’t have data to rule it out. Still, what he’s saying really pulls the rug out from the official WHO report on the origins of the virus issued in March.

What we obviously need is more data from the place where the virus originated (one way or another), but China has already made it clear they aren’t interested in offering anything else. The AP quotes Georgetown University law professor Lawrence Gostin who predicted these belated calls for transparency would go nowhere. “All Tedros can do is use the bully pulpit, but it will fall on deaf ears,” he said.

Reuters has published a brief story saying that Tedros plans to announce plans for a “phase 2 study into the origins of the coronavirus” sometime tomorrow. Does that mean another visit to China is in the works or is Tedros just making a proposal for one which China will promptly ignore? At the moment it’s not clear but I haven’t see anything coming out of China that suggests they will reopen this investigation. On the contrary, their foreign policy spokesman has been quoting the conclusion of the previous WHO investigation on a weekly and sometimes a daily basis. China got what it wanted from the WHO and they are done.

What’s frustrating is that it has taken this long to make these kind of basic demands. The wet markets where the virus circulated in Wuhan were cleared out 18 months ago. There’s nothing left to test. As for data on the early patients, China presumably has it but they obviously don’t want to share it. Anything they do share at this point may or may not be accurate. As the former head of MI6 said last month, “a lot of data have probably been destroyed or made to disappear.” That’s what happens when you give tyrannical government intent on being the hero of the pandemic months and months to put together their story.

What we needed was for the WHO to push for this kind of transparency last January. Instead we got Dr. Tedros who seemed happy to parrot whatever his friends in China told him at the time. If our best hope for finding the truth rests on this guy, then we might as well give up now. Here’s Dr. Tedros saying things he should have said at least a year ago.