The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching its probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which comes after an investigation The Lancet into the same issue was closed down due to bias concerns.
“A new team of about 20 scientists—including specialists in laboratory safety and biosecurity and geneticists and animal-disease experts versed in how viruses spill over from nature—is being assembled with a mandate to hunt for new evidence in China and elsewhere,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “The possibilities that the new team is charged with examining include whether the Covid-19 virus could have emerged from a lab, according to WHO officials, a hypothesis that has especially angered China.”
The new effort comes after Beijing restricted the WHO’s first investigation into the origins of the pandemic, refusing to hand over raw patient data from early cases to investigators. China has sought to deflect attention over the possibility that the pandemic started in one of China’s labs that had serious safety issues by falsely blaming the United States, claiming without evidence that the coronavirus could have come from a lab in the U.S.
The WHO appears to be pressing ahead hard this second time around as they worry that time is running out to determine the pandemic’s origins since evidence such as samples are discarded and antibodies from early patients are fading.
“It took more than a year after the pandemic began for that original team to get visas and permission to enter China, which repeatedly delayed a probe it saw as an attempt to assign blame,” The Journal added. “After that visit, the team recommended further testing of animals in China and traders there who deal with wild or farmed mammals that are susceptible to Covid-19. Yet China’s government has shut down such farms across large regions, making it much harder—perhaps even impossible—to establish whether the Covid-19 virus spread to humans via such species, many scientists say.”
The news comes on the heels of another report from The Journal that said that a commission from The Lancet, which was also investigating the origins of the pandemic, was shut down over concerns that the commission was too closely linked to a controversial organization that is tied to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs “chairman of a Covid-19 commission affiliated with the Lancet scientific journals, said he closed the task force because he was concerned about its links to EcoHealth Alliance,” The Journal reported. “The New York-based nonprofit has been under scrutiny from some scientists, members of Congress and other officials since 2020 for using U.S. funds for studies on bat coronaviruses with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research facility in the Chinese city where the first Covid-19 outbreak occurred.”