The World Health Organization team that announced in February it was “extremely unlikely” that COVID-19 could have accidentally leaked from a Wuhan lab has scrapped previously announced plans to release an interim report on its findings.
WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Feb. 10 that the report would be released “in coming days,” but the team’s lead researcher, Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that it will not release an interim report and will instead publish a comprehensive report that “in coming weeks and will include key findings.”
“By definition a summary report does not have all the details,” Embarek said. “So since there [is] so much interest in this report, a summary only would not satisfy the curiosity of the readers.”
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had previously said on Feb. 12 that an interim report on its investigation into the origins of COVID-19 could be released as soon as the following week, according to The Journal.
The WHO’s delay in reporting its findings from its investigation in Wuhan comes amid growing criticism from the scientific community over the legitimacy of the mission.
A group of two dozen scientists issued an open letter on Thursday stating that the WHO’s mission in China, which was accompanied by “Chinese citizens whose scientific independence may be limited,” did not have the “mandate, the independence, or the necessary accesses” to fully investigate all potential origins of COVID-19, including the theory that the virus could have accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The scientists called for a new investigation in China “carried out by a truly independent team with no unresolved conflicts of interests,” an apparent reference to the sole U.S. member of the WHO team, Dr. Peter Daszak, who routed $600,000 in taxpayer funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the pandemic to study bat-based coronaviruses.
Daszak also orchestrated a statement in The Lancet medical journal at the onset of the pandemic that condemned “conspiracy theories” suggesting COVID-19 does not have a natural origin, indicating he had made up his mind on the lab leak theory long before being invited to partake in the WHO’s pandemic origins investigation.
Daszak criticized President Joe Biden’s state department after it announced on Feb. 9 it was waiting to review the WHO’s report before coming to any conclusions. Daszak suggested in a tweet the White House should blindly accept the WHO’s determination that the lab leak theory was “highly unlikely” before having the opportunity to review the underlying evidence.
The scientists also said in their open letter a new investigation must have “no full or partial control by any specific agenda or country,” and must have “full or significant access” to all laboratories, Chinese and international, that are known to have worked on coronaviruses prior to the pandemic.
“With more than two million deaths, more than a hundred million infected by COVID-19 worldwide, and a massive global disruption impacting some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, we cannot afford an investigation into the origins of the pandemic that is anything less than absolutely thorough and credible,” the scientists said. “If we fail to fully and courageously examine the origins of this pandemic, we risk being unprepared for a potentially worse pandemic in the future.”
The drive for a new investigation in China is unlikely to gain traction, according to The Journal, which noted that any future probes will need to receive approval from the Chinese government.