News & Politics

WHO Refuses to Release Interim Report on Investigation Into Virus Origins

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

The WHO team of scientists who went to China to investigate the origins of the coronavirus will not release an interim report on their findings. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last month that the team would release an interim report on their visit to China and then, several weeks later, issue a final report. Now, the team will release a “summary” of their trip and a final report later.

The news comes as a group of prominent scientists sent an open letter demanding an entirely new investigation. They say that the WHO team “had insufficient access to adequately investigate possible sources of the new coronavirus, including whether it slipped from a laboratory,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Their appeal comes as the U.S.—which recently reversed a decision to leave the WHO—lobbies for greater transparency in the investigation, saying it is waiting to scrutinize the report on the Wuhan mission, and urging China to release all relevant data, including on the first confirmed infections in December 2019, and potential earlier ones.

Beijing, meanwhile, is pressing for similar WHO-led missions to other countries, including the U.S., to investigate whether the virus could have originated outside China and spread to Wuhan via frozen food packaging.

China must be laughing behind its sleeve. No one believes that frozen food packaging had anything whatsoever to do with the spread of the coronavirus. Their call for investigations in other countries is a smokescreen to distract from their own culpability in unleashing the coronavirus on the world.

China’s foreign ministry described the open letter as “old wine in new bottles” that assumed guilt and lacked scientific credibility, and said the Wuhan mission concluded that a laboratory origin was “extremely unlikely” and not worth further research. Neither the foreign ministry nor China’s national health commission responded to requests for comment on the Wuhan mission report.

According to an advance copy of the open letter, the group of 26 scientists and other experts in areas including virology, zoology and microbiology said that it was “all but impossible” for the WHO team to conduct a full investigation, and that any report was likely to involve political compromises as it had to be approved by the Chinese side.

From the very beginning, China has dug in its heels and refused to cooperate, despite repeated assurances that they would. It began when they slow-walked the scientists’ permissions to access certain sites in Wuhan. Their intransigence continued in a refusal to share original data on the outbreak. The “independence” of the investigation was hopelessly compromised from the start.

Among other issues raised in the open letter, there needed to be confidential interviews and fuller access to hospital records from late 2019 when the coronavirus first appeared.

Investigators should also be allowed to view records including maintenance, personnel, animal breeding and experiment logs from all laboratories working with coronaviruses, the letter said.

“We cannot afford an investigation into the origins of the pandemic that is anything less than absolutely thorough and credible,” the letter said. “Efforts to date do not constitute a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation.”

The problem with initiating another investigation is that the key to discovering the origins of the coronavirus is held by China. And they’re apparently hiding something by their non-cooperation in the investigation.

Perhaps the rest of the world should take note. China’s influence in international affairs is growing rapidly. Are they really a nation that deserves respect if they risk the health and safety of millions to hide their culpability in spreading a deadly disease?

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