World no closer to responding to COVID origins, despite WHO probe: Expert

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured at WHO headquarters in Geneva

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Despite a high-profile visit by a team of international experts to China in January, the world has come no closer to the origins of COVID-19, according to one of the authors of an open letter calling for a new investigation into the pandemic.

“At this point, we are no further than a year ago,” said Nikolai Petrovsky, a vaccines expert at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia and one of 26 global experts who signed the open letter published Thursday.

In January, a team of scientists selected by the World Health Organization (WHO) visited hospitals and research institutes in Wuhan, the city in central China where the coronavirus was identified, to look for clues about the origins of COVID-19.

But the mission has come under fire, with critics accusing the WHO of relying too much on politically compromised Chinese fieldwork and data.

Team members also said China is reluctant to share important data that could show COVID-19 was floating around months earlier than first detected.

The open letter said the WHO mission “did not have the mandate, independence or access to conduct a full and unqualified investigation” on all theories about the origins of COVID-19.

“All possibilities remain on the table, and I haven’t seen a single independent scientific data rule out any of them,” Petrovsky said.

At a press conference in Wuhan at the end of the WHO visit, mission leader Peter Ben Embarek appeared to rule out the possibility that the virus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.

But Petrovsky said it “doesn’t make sense” to rule out a possibility, and said the aim of the open letter is “to get confirmation worldwide that no one has identified the source of the virus and we need to keep looking.” . “

“We need an open mind, and if we close some avenues because they are considered too sensitive, science doesn’t work that way,” he said.

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