The Corner


WHO: After an Extensive Investigation . . . We Know Nothing

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference after a meeting of the Emergency Committee on the coronavirus in Geneva, Switzerland January 30, 2020. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

Roughly 16 months after the COVID-19 pandemic started, the World Health Organization, after having acquiesced to every possible demand, restriction, and nudge from the Chinese government, issued its report upon the origins of the outbreak and declared . . . they can’t rule anything in or out, they couldn’t figure out much that we didn’t know a few months into the crisis, and they don’t have any real answers yet:

The joint international and Chinese mission organized by the World Health Organization on the origins of Covid released its report last week suggesting that for almost every topic it covered, more study was needed. What kind of study and who will do it is the question.

The report suggested pursuing multiple lines of inquiry, focused on the likely origin of the coronavirus in bats. It concluded that the most likely route to humans was through an intermediate animal, perhaps at a wildlife farm. Among future efforts could be surveys of blood banks to look for cases that could have appeared before December 2019 and tracking down potential animal sources of the virus in wildlife farms, the team proposed.

Critics of the report have sought more consideration of the possibility that a laboratory incident in Wuhan could have led to the first human infection. A loosely organized group of scientists and others who have been meeting virtually to discuss the possibility of a lab leak released an open letter this week, detailing several ways to conduct a thorough investigation. It called for further action, arguing that “critical records and biological samples that could provide essential insights into pandemic origins remain inaccessible.”

Way to go, WHO. That’s some real deep-digging investigative work there, fellas! I’m reminded of the line from Office Space, “what would you say you do here?”

Just how unconvincing was that report? Even WHO’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, felt called to emphasize that his organization needed to investigate the lab leak possibility further:

The team also visited several laboratories in Wuhan and considered the possibility that the virus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident.

However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.

Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy.

The Biden administration moved the U.S. to formally rejoin WHO shortly after taking office. One of the arguments was that as a member, the U.S. would have more leverage, could more effectively help the organization find the truth, and be less likely to be manipulated by authoritarian regime.

Looks like that effort will take a while.


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