WHO abandons COVID origins investigation
China’s refusal to provide necessary access and data has stalled efforts to understand the early days of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has ditched plans to continue its investigation into the origins of COVID-19, due to ongoing difficulties in collaborating with China.
The theory that COVID-19 was leaked from a lab hasn’t gone away, with the last WHO investigation calling for further investigation into the theory, given that there was no new data on which to evaluate the allegations. The man who helped lead the U.S. response to COVID-19, Anthony Fauci, said in November that he had a "completely open mind" about the origins of the virus.
The scientific advisory group tasked with investigating evidence around the origins of the coronavirus had called in June 2022 for new studies, including audits of labs close to where the original outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, China. But the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, has now confirmed to the journal Nature that “there is no phase two.”
She said the WHO had planned for work to be done in phases but “that plan has changed.”
“The politics across the world of this really hampered progress on understanding the origins,” she added.
Van Kerkhove, who has been the face of much of the WHO’s response to the pandemic, said the organization’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had directly engaged with the Chinese government and encouraged them to share data more openly. "We really, really want to be able to work with our colleagues there,” she said. “It’s really a deep frustration.”
China’s refusal to play ball has previously resulted in Tedros publicly calling for China to provide raw data from the early days of the pandemic, and urging Chinese authorities to be “open and to cooperate.”
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Republicans have launched an investigation into China and the pandemic’s origins.