WHO Urges China to Release Data Needed For Covid-19 Origins Probe
By Staff, Agencies
Responding to Chinese concerns over the probe into the ‘lab hypothesis’ of the pandemic’s origin, the World Health Organization [WHO] said it wasn’t playing politics but seeking the necessary data and following the science.
In a statement released on Thursday, the WHO called on all governments “to depoliticize the situation and cooperate to accelerate the origins studies, and importantly to work together to develop a common framework for future emerging pathogens of pandemic potential.”
Searching for the origin of any new pathogen “is a difficult process, which is based on science, and takes collaboration, dedication and time,” the WHO said, adding that the search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – “is not and should not be an exercise in attributing blame, finger-pointing or political point-scoring.”
It is important to find out how the pandemic began in order to “to set an example for establishing the origins of all future animal-human spillover events,” the WHO said, in phrasing that appeared to endorse the zoonotic origin hypothesis.
“Access to data is critically important for evolving our understanding of science and should not be politicized in any way,” the organization added, in what seemed to be a dig at China’s refusal to release information pertaining to the Wuhan Institute of Virology [WIV].
In July, Beijing rejected the WHO’s second-phase probe as going “against science.” Yuan Zhiming, the director of the biosafety lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told reporters at the time that the WIV “has never designed, made or leaked the novel coronavirus.”
Addressing the Chinese concerns, the WHO said that the initial study in March found “there was insufficient scientific evidence to rule any of the hypotheses out,” and that to properly address the laboratory origin theory “it is important to have access to all data and consider scientific best practice and look at the mechanisms WHO already has in place.”
The WHO noted that Italy shared raw data and gave permission to re-test its samples abroad, reflecting “scientific solidarity at its best.” This is “no different from what we encourage all countries, including China, to support so that we can advance the studies of the origins quickly and effectively,” the WHO added.
More than 205 million people have tested positive for Covid-19 since the WHO declared a pandemic in March 2020, and 4.33 million have died. The US has had the highest number of both cases and deaths, 36.4 million and 619,000, respectively.