WHO Chief Says It Was 'Premature' To Rule Out COVID Lab Leak
The statement by World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus undermines a WHO report that concluded that a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely.”
The head of the World Health Organization has acknowledged it was premature to rule out a potential link between the COVID-19 pandemic and a laboratory leak.
In a rare departure from his usual deference to powerful member countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that getting access to raw data had been a challenge for the team that traveled to China this year to investigate the source of the coronavirus.
Tedros said there had been a “premature push” to rule out the theory that the virus might have escaped from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan.
His statement undermines a WHO report which concluded that a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely.”
“I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen,” Tedros said. “It’s common.”
In recent months, the idea that the pandemic started in a laboratory — and perhaps involved an engineered virus — has gained traction, especially with President Joe Biden ordering a review of U.S. intelligence to assess the possibility in May.
China has struck back aggressively, arguing that attempts to link the origins of COVID-19 to a lab are politically motivated and has suggested that the outbreak might have started abroad.