WHO Cancels Interim Report on Origins of COVID-19 Amid Tensions

March 8, 2021 by Daniel Mollenkamp

A fiery open letter signed by an international collection of scientists together with growing tensions between China and the U.S. caused the World Health Organization investigators this week to cancel an interim report on the origins of the coronavirus based on investigations in China.

The letter, which was made public on Thursday, called for “unrestricted” investigations into the origins of coronavirus describing the WHO’s current investigation as insufficient and not independent, pointing towards the limitations placed upon the investigators by China, including heavy oversight, a lack of transparency, and restricted access. 

They wrote, “the joint team did not have the mandate, the independence, or the necessary accesses to carry out a full and unrestricted investigation into all the relevant SARS-CoV-2 origin hypotheses.” 

The letter also described the zoonosis hypothesis as unconfirmed and “only one of a number of possible SARS-CoV-2 origins, alongside the research-related accident hypothesis.” 

The first known case was an office worker in December of 2019 living in Wuhan who hadn’t been traveling, but the exact cause and origins are still not known for sure.

According to a piece in Nature which relied on interviews with WHO investigators, researchers still have unanswered questions about the early spread of the virus, but the WHO investigation will report that the virus was probably passed from bats to humans through an intermediary animal.

The WHO probe has been a source of tension. The main point of contention is that China has refused to release raw data for the early coronavirus cases and is instead retaining control over what they allow to be investigated. 

The WHO investigation team was heavily supervised on their visit to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus first appeared, for instance. The U.S. has formally criticized China for its lack of transparency with coronavirus. China has put the blame for the spread of coronavirus on frozen food imports. 

The WSJ first reported on Thursday that the interim report would be scrapped. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic has told the press that the full report will come in a matter of weeks. 

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