WHO backtracks, says COVID lab leak possibility not ‘discarded’



The head of the World Health Organization insisted Friday that scientists haven’t ruled out the possibility that COVID-19 was leaked from a lab in China — despite previous declarations from a WHO-led team saying it was “extremely unlikely.”

In a swift about-face, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the theory that the virus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology has not been dismissed, and that the organization is still investigating.

“Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded,” Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva.

“Having spoken with some members of the team, I wish to confirm that all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and studies.”

His comments come after Peter Ben Embarek —  an animal diseases expert on the WHO-led team that investigated the origins of the pandemic in the Chinese city — insisted earlier this week that the theory was far-fetched.

“The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” Embarek said. 

However, some potential findings may lie outside the “scope” of the WHO-led team’s investigation, Ghebreyesus explained Friday.

“Some of that work may lie outside the remit and scope of this mission. We have always said that this mission would not find all the answers, but it has added important information that takes us closer to understanding the origins of the virus,” he said.

“We will continue working to get the information we need to answer the questions that still need to be answered.”

The Trump administration previously pointed fingers at the Wuhan lab, saying the virus may have escaped while it was being studied there.

China, meanwhile, has remained defiant that COVID-19 was never present at the lab.

More than 108 million confirmed cases have now been reported globally since the virus emerged and more than 2.3 million people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

With Post wires


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