THE boss of the World Health Organisation has said the theory about the Wuhan lab leak “remains open” but “needs further study” after it was accused of a whitewash over its China probe.
An interim report by the investigators was scrapped after it was widely condemned as a whitewash with claims experts had performed a u-turn on their original theories.
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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus the theory over the Wuhan laboratory being the source of the coronavirus was still ‘open’Credit: AP
The WHO chief said more research was needed into the origins of the virusCredit: AP
WIV is known to have been experimenting with bat coronavirusesCredit: Wuhan Virology Institute
Despite their investigation the team never came to a solid conclusion.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN health agency had received the report over the weekend from the international experts who had gone to Wuhan to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 virus that has killed millions of people worldwide.
“All hypotheses are open from what I read from the report,” Tedros told a virtual press conference in Geneva today, adding that they “will need further study”.
A briefing between the international experts and the WHO’s 194-member states will be held on Tuesday, after which the report would be published on the organisation’s website.
Tedros said: “We will read the report and discuss, digest its content and next steps with members states.
“I will have more to say following further review and understanding of the report.”
A leaked copy of the report is said to state the jump from bats to humans via an intermediate animal was the most probable scenario, considering it to be a “likely to very likely” scenario.
A direct leap from bats to humans was considered to be “possible to likely” while the coronavirus being introduced via frozen products was thought to be “possible”.
The virus leaking from a laboratory was deemed to be “extremely unlikely”.
The team of investigators which spent four weeks looking into the origins of the outbreak, was limited to visits organised by their hosts and prevented from contact with community members, due to health restrictions.
Earlier in March it was reported the lead investigator on the team admitted the lab leak theory is now “definitely NOT off the table”.
Peter Ben Embarek admitted they didn’t get ‘hard facts or detailed data’ from the labCredit: AP:Associated Press
The lab is located just a stone’s throw from where the virus first emerged in December, 2019Credit: AFP – Getty
What do we know about the Wuhan Institure of Virology?
THE WUHAN Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in all of China – and can be found right at the heart of the origins of the global pandemic.
Various theories have been swirling about the lab, which is headed up by Chinese scientist Dr Shi Zhengli, known as “Bat Woman”.
Most scientists do not believe the virus leaked from the lab, and the lab itself has categorically denied the claims.
The lab specialised in bat-borne viruses and had been carrying out experiences on them since 2015.
Airlocks, full body suits, and chemical showers are required before entering and leaving the lab – the first in China to be accredited with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4).
BSL-4 labs are the only places in the world where scientists can study diseases that have no cure.
Scientists from the lab even tested mysterious
virus which killed three miners 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province back in 2012.
It has been suggested this fatal mystery bug may have been the true origin of Covid-19.
Experts at the lab also engineered a new type of hybrid ‘super-virus’ that can infect humans in 2015, according to medical journal Nature Medicine
Despite fears surrounding the research, the study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to humans.
There is no suggestion the facility’s 2015 work is linked to the pandemic.
The lab was also recruiting new scientists to probe coronaviruses in bats just seven days before the outbreak.
China has began tightening security around its biolabs with President Xi Jinping saying it was a “national security” issue to improve scientific safety at a meeting last February.
Dr Peter Ben Embarek said at the time they didn’t get “hard facts or detailed data” from the Chinese lab at the centre of a storm over the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
Embarek, an expert on animal diseases and food safety, stressed he was skeptical of the theory that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – but admitted it was still a possibility.
The WIV is known to have been experimenting with bat coronaviruses and creating infectious hybrid strains for tests – and is located just a stone’s throw from where the virus first emerged in December 2019.
Embarek previously said the lab leak theory would not be recommended for “future studies” and was considered “extremely unlikely”.
Professor John Watson appeared BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show and he said additional investigations were needed to look at a potential leak from the WIV “in more detail”.
“That’s a hypothesis that remains on the table and could certainly have further work done on it,” Prof Watson told Marr.
Embarek said the lab leak was still one of the four theories being exploredCredit: AFP or licensors
He revealed that the Communist Party refused to hand over raw data that was requested by the mission.
The New York Times also reported that Chinese officials had urged the WHO team to “embrace the government’s narrative about the source of the virus”.
Further admissions by WHO that the virus may have come from outside China and its apparent backing of the Communist Party’s theory that the virus may have come from “frozen food” led to allegations the probe was a “whitewash”.
The organisation itself is already facing questions about how it handled the early days of the pandemic, being accused by the US of being “China-centric”.
The White House has said it has “deep concerns” over the WHO investigation which was carried out in a tightly managed fashion alongside China.
Scientists who were on the team have already broken cover and revealed China did not hand over all the data they requested, and there was always “politics in the room”.
China and the lab have always furiously denied any allegations of a possible leak.