The Corner

World

World Health Organization: China’s Denials of a Lab Leak Resolve the Issue for Us

Remember two days ago, when the World Health Organization announced it will no longer be seriously considering the possibility of a laboratory accident playing a role in the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, based upon the findings of their team that visited Wuhan?

The conclusion is apparently based upon the fact that the WHO team “had conducted extensive discussions with staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been at the centre of the speculation, and similar labs nearby.”

In other words, the WHO asked the Chinese labs if they had an accident or leak, the labs denied they had any problems, and . . . case closed?

Another focus of the WHO’s investigation was the idea that the virus leaked from a lab — a scenario that the team found unlikely. Peter Ben Embarek, a food-safety and zoonosis scientist with the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, who headed the investigation, said at the press conference that the team had conducted extensive discussions with staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been at the centre of the speculation, and similar labs nearby. He said a leak is unlikely because the virus was not known to scientists before December 2019.

[Dominic Dwyer, a medical virologist at New South Wales Health Pathology in Sydney, Australia] says that the team didn’t see anything during its visits to suggest a lab accident. “Now, whether we were shown everything? You can never know. The group wasn’t designed to go and do a forensic examination of lab practice.”

A natural transmission from an animal to human is indeed possible, perhaps probable. But there’s a key piece of evidence for that theory that is, so far, missing: “And although the investigation team threw its weight behind the animal-origin theory, it didn’t identify the kinds of animal that could have passed the virus to people. Ben Embarek said that Chinese researchers had tested many domestic, farmed and wild animals in the country but found no evidence that the virus was present or continued to circulate in these species.”

If SARS-CoV-2 started because of someone eating or handling a bat or pangolin . . . why haven’t we found this virus — not a similar virus, but this particular one — in a bat or pangolin?

UPDATE: In a briefing this morning, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus offered a clarification that… doesn’t seem all that clarifying: “Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded. I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study.”

Recommended

The Latest