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WHO Head Calls for Further Probe of COVID Lab-Leak Theory

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks during a news conference on the coronavirus at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

The head of the World Health Organization called for further investigation into whether the novel coronavirus first leaked from a laboratory, in remarks to the press on Tuesday.

WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “all hypotheses remain on the table” regarding the origin of the coronavirus. Dr. Tedros made his remarks during the unveiling of a WHO report on the origin of the pandemic, which concludes that a lab leak is “highly unlikely.”

“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,” Dr. Tedros said.

The director-general also indicated that the team contracted by the WHO to investigate the pandemic’s origin was not given full access to Chinese data.

“The team reports that the first detected case had symptom onset on the 8th of December 2019,” Dr. Tedros said. “But to understand the earliest cases, scientists would benefit from full access to data including biological samples from at least September 2019.”

The WHO team dismissed the lab leak hypothesis at the end of its 123-page report, the Daily Caller noted. The report claims that a leak was unlikely because the three labs in Wuhan where coronaviruses were studied “all had high quality biosafety level (BSL3 or 4) facilities that were well-managed,” and staff monitoring showed “no reporting of COVID-19 compatible respiratory illnesses during the weeks/months prior to December 2019.”

However, that conclusion contradicts U.S. intelligence assessments of one of the labs in Wuhan. U.S. diplomats who visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2018 warned that the lab had serious safety issues, according to cables obtained by Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin.

The report also did not mention that the Wuhan Institute of Virology deleted public databases with information on 16,000 virus samples in September 2019. The WHO team did not request information from those databases as part of their investigation.

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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