The head of the World Health Organization has called for a new investigation into the theory that the coronavirus came from a laboratory in Wuhan.
The intervention of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus came when a report was released today ruling that the possibility was “extremely unlikely”.
Investigators at the global agency – known as WHO – have been criticized for trying to pacify China with the 123-page document.
The origin of the coronavirus was the source of an investigation, with suggestions that it may have been created in a laboratory and leaked.
Other hypotheses suggest that the disease passed from animals to humans, either directly or through a host such as bats.
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Dr. Peter Ben Embarek led a WHO mission to China in January and February this year to determine the cause of the pandemic.
When the results were officially published today, Director General Dr. Ghebreyesus announced his intervention and requested further investigation.
He told WHO member states: “Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, it will require further investigation, possibly with additional missions involving specialists that I am willing to deploy .
“I don’t think this assessment was extensive enough.
“More data and studies are needed to reach more informed conclusions.
“Let me be clear that all hypotheses remain on the table for WHO.”
The WHO chief also expressed concerns about the investigation team’s access to data, amid concerns that China had withheld information.
“I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing,” he added.
“We haven’t found the source of the virus yet, and we need to keep following science and leaving no stone unturned.”
Today’s report states that “introduction by an intermediate host is considered likely to very likely”.
It added that “direct zoonotic overflow” – from animal to human – is viewed as a “possible to probable route”.
The report also said there was widespread contamination in the Huanan market in Wuhan but could not determine the source.
The first likely case of the virus the team studied was on December 8, 2019.
To date, more than 2.8 million people have been killed by the coronavirus.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 today, a WHO expert said it was “notoriously difficult” to pinpoint the origins of a virus.
Dr. David Nabarro, special envoy for Covid-19, said that “it takes longer than people think” to find out where an illness came from.
The exact origins of HIV and Ebola are not yet known, he added.
He said, “It is notoriously difficult to find the origins of a virus when trying to explain where a disease came from.
“We don’t know the exact origins of HIV, we don’t know the exact origins of Ebola and it will be a long time before the exact origins of Covid-19 are found.
“We’re on our way – we have four hypotheses, we’re testing them all.
“The research that needs to be done is well known.”
He added, “It always takes a lot longer than you think to find out where these things came from.”