Top WHO Official: It’s ‘Definitely Too Early’ to Conclude Coronavirus Originated in China

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks next to Michael J. Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, during a news conference on the coronavirus in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

A World Health Organization official said recently that it is “definitely too early” to conclude that the coronavirus first started in China.

Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said Friday that “all hypotheses are on the table” as a team of WHO experts kick off an investigation in China into the origins of the virus.  

“I think we have to say this quite plainly; all hypotheses are on the table and it is definitely too early to come to a conclusion of exactly where this virus started either within or without China,” Ryan said at a press conference in Geneva in response to a question regarding the head of China’s CDC’s claims that the virus had not originated in the country.

Ryan said virus discovered in sewage and blood tests outside of China could indicate “earlier infection.” 

“Let’s step back, let’s follow the evidence, let’s follow the science. Our team are on the ground, they’re having a good experience working with our Chinese colleagues. We’re working through the data. The data will lead us to the next phase, where we need to go next to look at the origins of this virus,” Ryan said.

“It is too early to come to any conclusion but again we believe we are making some progress and we hope to continue to do so in the interests of public health in future,” he added.

However, health experts the world over have said that the novel coronavirus likely originated in Wuhan, China in November 2019. Scientists in recent months have questioned whether the virus originated at a live animal market in Wuhan or was the result of a lab accident at one of the city’s two laboratories — the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Centers for Disease Control — that had been studying coronaviruses that originated in bats. 

The coronavirus has since infected more than 100 million people globally and is responsible for more than 2 million deaths.

Earlier this month WHO secretary Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed frustration over delays in beginning its investigation in China, caused by the Chinese government’s efforts to block the experts from starting their probe.

China has worked hard to control the narrative surrounding the virus, punishing citizen journalists who spoke out against the government’s explanation of events. The government has also controlled all research in the country into the origins of the virus, according to the Associated Press. 

In April, then-President Donald Trump halted U.S. government funding for WHO while the administration launched a review of the organization’s handling of the pandemic. He accused the group of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”

However, President Joe Biden has vowed to reinstate funding for WHO.

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