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WHO changes China COVID Wuhan lab investigation stance; now says ‘all hypotheses remain open’

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
February 12, 2021

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) is backtracking comments made by the organization earlier this week after it said the theory that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic originated from an accident in a Wuhan virology lab is “extremely unlikely.”

In a Thursday press conference, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all hypotheses about the origins of the coronavirus outbreak remain and “require further study.”

“Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded,” Tedros said. “I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study. Some of that work may lie outside the remit and scope of this mission.”

Tedros’ comments come after WHO food safety and animal disease expert Peter Ben Embarek said on Tuesday that “the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population. Therefore it is not a hypothesis that we advise to suggest future studies.”

Embarek’s comments, advising WHO scientists no longer give the lab outbreak theory further consideration, drew criticism, including from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

On Tuesday, Pompeo said, “I must say the reason we left the World Health Organization was because we came to believe that it was corrupt, it had been politicized, it was bending a knee to General Secretary Xi Jinping in China. I hope that’s not the case here with what they’ve announced today. I’ll look forward to seeing their reports and analysis, but I don’t believe it’s the case, that they got access that they needed.”

Pompeo said “I hope they got to see all the data, all the science, into the lab, talk to the doctors, interview them in private, in places where they could actually tell the truth about what took place; not under the supervision of a Communist Party person sitting in the back of the room making sure that they toed the Communist Party line.”

Pompeo said, “I hope they got to see all the data, all the science, into the lab, talk to the doctors, interview them in private, in places where they could actually tell the truth about what took place; not under the supervision of a Communist Party person sitting in the back of the room making sure that they toed the Communist Party line.”

In the final days of President Donald Trump’s term, the State Department released a fact sheet noting several potential connections between activities at the Wuhan lab and the virus outbreak. The fact sheet noted the lab had conducted research on a coronavirus strain with a 96.2% similarity to the SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 strain. The fact sheet also noted past accidental infections in Chinese labs, like a 2004 incident that saw an outbreak of SARS in Beijing that infected nine people and led to one death.