World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday the organization’s mission in Wuhan to research the origins of COVID-19 did not sufficiently investigate the lab leak theory.
“The team also visited several laboratories in Wuhan and considered the possibility that the virus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident,” Tedros said. “However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”
“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” he added.
The WHO released its report on the origins of the pandemic on Tuesday. The report did not offer a definitive conclusion on where the virus originated but said it was most likely that it spilled over into the human population from bats via an intermediary animal host. The report said it was possible-to-likely that the virus spilled over to humans directly from bats, and was possible that it was imported into China via imported frozen food products.
The report stated it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus could have accidentally leaked from a Chinese lab that was studying bat-based coronaviruses prior to the pandemic.
Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s research team lead, said during a press conference Tuesday that the lab leak theory “did not receive the same depth of attention” that the other theories did during their four-week visit to China in early 2021.
WHO COVID origins team member Dr. Dominic Dwyer said during the press conference that the team was satisfied by the answers they received from workers at the Chinese laboratories that proper safety measures were in place and that they had no records showing an accidental lab leak occurred.
“A true forensic examination of a laboratory, like one might do other types of forensic examinations, is a much more complex process, and that’s not what we were there to do,” Dwyer said. “I think that’s important to remember.”
The origins report faced widespread speculation prior to its release.
WHO advisory committee member Jamie Metzl said Monday that the origins report was “an insult to everyone victimized by this terrible pandemic,” noting that it wrote off the lab leak hypothesis without asking basic questions.
How could the @WHO/Chinese gov’t joint team possibly call the lab like hypothesis “extremely unlikely“ in their report when they didn’t even bother to look into it or ask the most basic questions?
— Jamie Metzl (@JamieMetzl) March 29, 2021
“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into the report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an interview Thursday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”