The World Health Organization’s director-general said the research team’s assessment on whether the coronavirus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident was not “extensive enough,” and that he believes it requires further investigation. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus further stated that the theory of a laboratory leak warrants further investigation and that he is “ready to deploy” specialist experts.
Tedros comments came after the agency released its inconclusive report on the possible origin of coronavirus and said that introduction through a laboratory incident was “extremely unlikely.” Researchers involved in the report after its release acknowledged during a media briefing that they did not conduct a full investigation of the labs in China “or any labs around the world for that matter,” and therefore could not definitively reach any results other than what was stated in the report.
However, Tedros called for “more robust conclusions.”
“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 no dot 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.”
A statement released by the governments of the United States, Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia and the U.K. also voiced concern about the report. The statement cited delays and “lack of access to complete, original data and samples.”
“Scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings,” the statement said. “We share these concerns not only for the benefit of learning all we can about the origins of this pandemic, but also to lay a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises.”
Tedros further called the report “a very important beginning” but warned that “it is not the end.”
“We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” he said. “Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again. No single research trip can provide all the answers. It is clear that we need more research across a range of areas, which will entail further field visits.”