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Calls for new Covid-19 probe put Beijing on the spot

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks on the sidelines of the 74th World Health Assembly in Geneva. Photo: Reuters.

Representatives from several countries at WHO meeting stress the need to solve the mystery on how the coronavirus first began spreading among humans

(AF) The US and other countries have called for a more in-depth investigation into the Covid-19 pandemic’s origins, once again putting China’s official explanation on the spot.

Andy Slavitt, a top White House adviser on the pandemic, said on Tuesday the investigation carried out last year by the World Health Organization had not done enough to explain how the disease first started spreading among humans.

He was speaking after a report in The Wall Street Journal claimed three scientists at a Wuhan medical laboratory suffered Covid-19-like symptoms in November 2020, a month before the first official case was reported.

Addressing the WHO’s annual meeting of member states, representatives from several countries stressed the continued need to solve the mystery of how Covid-19 first began spreading among humans.

“We underscore the importance of a robust comprehensive and expert-led inquiry into the origins of Covid-19,” US representative Jeremy Konyndyk told the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.


The European Union, Australia and Japan were among others to call for more progress on the investigation, while the British representative urged for any probe to be “timely, expert-driven and grounded in robust science”.

Determining how the virus that causes Covid-19 began spreading is seen as vital to preventing future pandemics.

China reacted angrily to the new calls, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian asking: “What is the real purpose for the US to continue to play up the so-called ‘lab leak theory’? Does it really care about the origin-tracing of the virus or just want to divert attention?”

A long-delayed report by the team of international experts sent to Wuhan and their Chinese counterparts drew no firm conclusions on the origins of the pandemic.

The report said the virus jumping from bats to humans via an intermediate animal was the most probable scenario, while it said a theory involving the virus leaking from a laboratory was “extremely unlikely”.

But after the report was released WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted all theories remained on the table.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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