WHO investigation: the new search for the origin of the coronavirus

Dhe World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a new initiative to search for the origin of the coronavirus. It is to be led by a new advisory body, the 26 members of which were nominated in Geneva on Wednesday evening. “It could be our last chance to understand the origin of this virus,” said WHO Emergency Relief Director Michael Ryan. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry evaded the question of whether China would allow another WHO mission in its own country on Thursday. Scientists should “follow a global perspective,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian. The WHO must ensure that they carry out their tasks “impartially”. The Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva said “it is time to send the teams to other places (outside of China)”.

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

On the other hand, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote in the journal Science, “Detailed investigations of the first known and suspected cases in China before December 2019 are still urgently needed”. This also included analyzes of stored blood samples from Wuhan and the surrounding area from 2019 as well as analyzes of hospital records and data from the deceased. The American broadcaster CNN reported on Tuesday that China was preparing to examine tens of thousands of blood samples in Wuhan. A member of the Chinese health commission told the broadcaster that testing of samples from October and November 2019 was imminent. They were not possible earlier because blood samples in China would have to be saved for two years as evidence for any legal process.

China also wants investigations in the US

WHO Director General Tedros confirmed that the hypothesis that Sars-CoV-2 could have escaped from a laboratory should also be tested. The focus must be “on laboratories in places where the first human infections were reported in Wuhan”. In doing so, he indirectly rejected claims by China that an American military laboratory in Maryland should be checked. The People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, had argued that China could only trust the new WHO body if it also looked at the American laboratory. Tedros complained that the search for the origin of Sars-CoV-2 had been made more difficult by “politicization”.

Among the 26 scientists nominated are two laboratory safety experts. Six members of the committee, which is to look after the research of the origins of new pathogens on a permanent basis, were already part of the WHO mission in Wuhan, which presented its results in March. The British-American zoologist Peter Daszak, who had vehemently argued against the laboratory hypothesis from the start, is no longer there. He had been accused of having a conflict of interest for years of researching coronavirus with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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