WHO boss promises to do everything to shed light on the origins of COVID-19

WHO boss promises to do everything to shed light on origins of COVID-19


The head of the World Health Organization pledged personally on Wednesday to do everything possible to obtain “an answer” on the origins of COVID-19, strongly denying reports that the organization has given up on his investigation.

“There is a scientific and moral dimension to this problem and we must continue to push until we have the answer” on the origins of the pandemic which started in China at the end of 2019, declared Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during a a press briefing.

“It is very, very important and very, very crucial,” he insisted.

He pointed out that he had recently sent an official letter to a senior Chinese official to once again request Beijing's collaboration in the search for the origins of the worst pandemic in a century, killing millions of people and in handicap tens of millions more.

An article in the scientific journal Nature published this week claimed that the WHO had withdrawn from pursuing the second phase of the origins investigation because of the lack of cooperation from the Chinese authorities. 

The scientific community believes that it is crucial to know the origins of this pandemic in order to be able to better fight or even avoid the next one. 

“Quietly suspended”

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has quietly suspended the second phase of its long-awaited scientific investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing ongoing challenges with attempts to conduct crucial studies in China,” writes Nature.

Quoted in the article, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who has been in charge of the fight against the pandemic at the WHO since its beginnings, denied this.

“WHO has not abandoned the study of the origin of COVID,” she said during the press conference; and to insist: “We have not abandoned any plan. We won't stop until we understand the origins and it gets harder and harder because the more time passes the harder it is to really understand what happened in these early stages of the pandemic.  

“We continue to ask for more cooperation and collaboration from our colleagues in China, to advance the studies that need to take place in China,” she added. “We will go where science takes us,” she promised, without political considerations.

In the article she is specifically quoted as saying that “there is no phase two”, but the editor accuses the author of the Nature article of being wrong, “which is really concerning because that makes for inaccurate headlines.”

Market or lab?

A team of specialists under the leadership of the WHO and accompanied by Chinese colleagues had investigated in China in February 2021 to try to unravel the mystery of the origins in Wuhan, on the places where the pandemic seems to have started. 

A joint report then tipped the scales in favor of the highly contagious virus being transmitted to humans by an intermediary animal, possibly in a market in the Chinese city.< /p>

Another theory – championed in particular by US intelligence services under the Trump administration, but also a number of members of the scientific community – leans in favor of a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, where coronaviruses of the type SARS CoV-2 were being studied.

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO Emergency Manager, reiterated that “all hypotheses remain on the table” as that the mystery will not have been solved. 

No team has been able to return to China and WHO officials have repeatedly requested additional data, which until then have always been refused .

The WHO also created in October 2021 the Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of New Pathogens (SAGO). Its mission goes far beyond the framework of the sole investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and it must above all establish a catalog of best practices to enable better and faster detection of the vector of the next pandemic.

As for Doctor Ryan – clearly tired of criticism against his organization – he recalled that the primary responsibility for finding the origins of a pandemic “rested in the hands of the State” where it started.