WHO calls on US to share information on Covid-19 origins after China lab claims | Coronavirus

The World Health Organization has urged all countries to reveal what they know about the origins of Covid-19, after claims from several US government agencies that a Chinese lab leak was behind the disease were furiously denied by Beijing.

“If any country has information about the origins of the pandemic, it’s essential for that information to be shared with WHO and the international scientific community,” the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Friday.

The FBI director, Christopher Wray, told Fox News on Tuesday that his agency had now assessed the source of the Covid-19 pandemic was “most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan”.

The first infections from coronavirus were recorded in late 2019 in the Chinese city, which hosts a virus research laboratory. Chinese officials have denied the FBI claim, calling it a smear campaign against Beijing.

Tedros stressed that the WHO did not wish to apportion blame, but wanted to “advance our understanding of how this pandemic started so we can prevent, prepare for and respond to future epidemics and pandemics”.

He said the politicisation of the origins research was making the scientific work harder and the world less safe as a result.

In 2021, the UN’s health agency set up the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (Sago) to look into the origins of the pandemic.

“WHO continues to call for China to be transparent in sharing data and to conduct the necessary investigations and share the results,” said Tedros, adding that he had written and spoken to top Chinese leaders on multiple occasions.

“Until then, all hypotheses on the origins of the virus remain on the table.”

The comments from Wray 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. However, this assessment was made with “low confidence”.

Other agencies within the US intelligence community believe the virus emerged naturally.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said the organisation had reached out to the US mission in Geneva for more information.

So far, however, they did not have access to the data on which the US reports were based, said Van Kerkhove.

“It remains vital that that information is shared”, to help move the scientific studies forward, she added.

Tedros said there was a moral imperative to find out how the pandemic started, for the sake of the millions who lost their lives to Covid-19 and those living with long Covid.

More than 6.8m Covid-19 deaths and more than 758m confirmed cases have been recorded by the WHO. The organisation acknowledges that the true toll is far higher.

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