The WHO on Friday urged all countries to reveal what they know about the origins of Covid-19 following US claims of Chinese lab leaks and fierce denials from Beijing.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News television on Tuesday that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation now assessed the source of the Covid-19 pandemic was “most likely a possible laboratory incident in Wuhan”.
The first infection with the new coronavirus was recorded in late 2019 in the Chinese city, which hosts a virus research laboratory.
Chinese officials have angrily denied the FBI’s claim, calling it a smear campaign against Beijing.
“If a country has information about the origin of the pandemic, it is essential to share that information with WHO and the international scientific community,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation.
“Not to assign blame but to advance our understanding of how this pandemic began so that we can prevent, prepare for, and respond to future pandemics and epidemics.
“WHO has not abandoned any plans to identify the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he told reporters.
WHO urges transparency
In 2021, the United Nations health agency established the Scientific Advisory Group on the Origin of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) to trace the origin of the pandemic.
“The WHO has been calling on China to be transparent in sharing data and conducting necessary investigations and sharing results,” Tedros said.
“Until then, all hypotheses on the origin of the virus remain on the table.”
But he said the politicization of basic research was making scientific work harder – and the world less safe as a result.
FBI chief Wray’s comments came after a report earlier this week said the US Department of Energy had determined that a Chinese lab leak was the most likely cause of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The department works with a network of some of the national laboratories involved in advanced biological research. Other agencies in the US intelligence community believe the virus emerged naturally.
Share data, says WHO
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, said the WHO had reached out to the US mission in Geneva for more information.
However, until now, they did not have access to the data on which the US report was based, said Van Kerkhove, who is an infectious disease epidemiologist.
“It’s important that that information is shared” to help advance scientific study, he said.
Tedros said it was a moral imperative to find out how the pandemic began, for the millions of people who lost their lives to COVID-19 and those living with it for a long time.
More than 6.8 million COVID-19 deaths and more than 758 million confirmed cases have been reported to the WHO, which acknowledges that the real numbers are much higher.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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