WHO calls for ‘audits’ of Chinese labs in Covid-19 research

The World Health Organization said on Friday that the second phase of an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus should include further studies in China and laboratory audits.

In a closed-door briefing to member states, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus proposed five priorities for the next phase of the investigation.

They include “audits of relevant labs and research institutions working on the first human cases identified in December 2019,” according to a copy of its opening statement from WHO.

He also suggested that researchers should focus on “studies that prioritize geographic areas with the earliest indication of SARS CoV-2 circulation.”

And he called for more research into animal markets in and around the Chinese city of Wuhan, where Covid-19 was first discovered.

The UN health agency is under increasing pressure for a new, more in-depth investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

The WHO only managed to send a team of independent, international experts to Wuhan in January, more than a year after Covid-19 first emerged there in late 2019, to help their Chinese counterparts investigate. the origin of the pandemic.

The long-delayed report after the first phase of the investigation was published in late March but drew no firm conclusions about how the virus causing Covid first spread to humans.

Instead, they ranked different hypotheses based on how likely they thought they were, finding that it was highly likely that the virus had jumped from bats to humans through an intermediate animal, while one theory involving the virus leaking from a lab, was considered “extremely unlikely”.

The study and report have been criticized for lack of transparency and access, and for failing to evaluate lab leak theory more deeply.

Tedros, who has always maintained that all theories were left on the table, told reporters on Thursday that the pressure to rule out a possible link to a lab leak had been “premature”.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, while standing by the first mission’s conclusion that Covid-19 escape from a lab was “extremely unlikely”, warned that “this issue should not be politicized. “.

(AFP)

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