The World Health Organization (WHO) is struggling to advance its widely requested probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic due to a lack of cooperation from China, the agency’s head said Thursday, calling on other countries to join its push for increased transparency.
Speaking at a morning media briefing, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said China is yet to share raw data about the start of the pandemic that is critical to the next phase of its investigation.
The first phase of the probe “has shown great progress,” Ghebreyesus said, referencing a joint WHO-China study released several weeks ago which found the virus that causes Covid-19 could have started spreading in China as early as October 2019—two months before the first case was identified in Wuhan.
But the next step, which the agency has not yet released detailed proposals for, requires a level of cooperation that China has so far refused, according to the WHO head.
Ghebreyesus said he will soon begin discussing phase two of the probe with WHO member nations and encouraged other countries to help push for more transparency from China.
“Checking what happened, especially in our labs, is important and we need information, direct information, on what the situation of this lab was before and at the start of the pandemic,” Ghebreyesus said of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the laboratory where some suspect the virus may have leaked from.
There has been a renewed push in recent months to get to the bottom of the origins of the coronavirus. While no conclusions have been drawn, top researchers long maintained the most likely explanation is that the virus came from an animal, likely a bat. However, in recent months, the theory that Covid-19 instead leaked from a lab in Wuhan has continued to pick up steam, prompting President Biden to call for intelligence agencies to “redouble their efforts” to probe the virus’s origin.
What To Watch For
Mounting doubt over the WHO’s ability to successfully investigate the pandemic’s origins. As highlighted by an Associated Press report earlier this month, an increasing number of scientists have questioned whether the UN agency should be the one handling the investigation given that it lacks the power to compel China to cooperate.
“Experts question if WHO should lead pandemic origins probe” (The Associated Press)