This comes after Peter Embarek, head of a team of WHO scientists sent to the Chinese city of Wuhan last January to investigate the origin of the virus, said that the lab-leak theory is "extremely unlikely."
The WHO investigation has returned findings that seem to suggest the virus did not emerge from a Wuhan lab. But Chinese authorities' refusal to provide raw data pertaining to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic cast doubt on the credibility of those findings.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Embarek downplayed the theory that the virus was either manufactured at or accidentally leaked from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This theory, according to Embarek, "isn’t a hypothesis we suggest implies further study."
Instead, the virus was most likely passed to humans from animals or frozen wildlife products, he said. This would lend credence to China's assertion that the Wuhan coronavirus did not originate from the country, but was brought there via frozen goods. This narrative, published in Chinese newspapers, gained little traction outside the Communist state.
Tedros said that though the investigation did not provide all answers they were looking for, it has added valuable information needed to piece together the origin of the virus. This comes even though the Chinese government reportedly refused the WHO investigators access to raw data on early COVID-19 cases. (Related: Biden EO bans term "China Virus" as China deletes 300 Wuhan lab studies, bans investigators from lab.)
"They showed us a couple of examples, but that's not the same as doing all of them, which is standard epidemiological investigation," said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian microbiologist on the WHO team.
"So then, you know, the interpretation of that data becomes more limited from our point of view, although the other side might see it as being quite good," Dwyer continued.
The scientists requested to see the records of 174 COVID-19 cases that were identified in December 2019, when the first patient with COVID-19 symptoms was reported. But they said that Chinese authorities did not allow them to see those records.
Instead, the team was given aggregated and summarized data made by Chinese officials, including analyses saying that there was no evidence of the virus in Wuhan prior to the December outbreak. Early detection of the disease could have halted its spread before it erupted into a worldwide pandemic.
By Ethan Huff // Share