U.S., U.K. call for next phase of virus traceability investigation, WHO draws up investigation plan

A World Health Organization spokesman said Friday (May 28) that the organization’s experts are drafting plans for the next phase of the investigation into the source of the new coronavirus.

The day before, the U.S. called on the WHO to launch a second phase of the virus traceability investigation by organizing independent experts to travel to China, giving them full access to raw data and early patient blood samples.

A similar call was made by the United Kingdom. Simon Manley, the British ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, issued a statement saying, “The initial first phase of the WHO investigation into the new coronavirus is only the beginning, not the end, of the process. We call for a timely, transparent, evidence-based and expert-led second phase of the investigation, including the People’s Republic of China, in line with the recommendations of the expert report.”

Reporting back to the United Nations on Friday, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the experts will develop a plan to be submitted to WHO Director-General Tan Desai. However, Chaib said there is no timeline set for developing the plan. Earlier this week, WHO Chief Emergency Specialist Mike Ryan said work on communicating with WHO member states on the matter will continue in the coming weeks.

A WHO team of experts traveled earlier this year to Wuhan, where China’s earliest outbreaks of the new strain occurred, and worked with Chinese scientists for about four weeks to investigate. in March, the team released a report saying that the virus could have been transmitted to humans from bats through another animal, and that the transmission of the virus to humans through a laboratory leak was “highly unlikely. “.

The panel’s conclusion was questioned by many. People pointed out that the investigation was manipulated and limited from start to finish by the Chinese side, and that the investigation report was essentially endorsed by the Chinese official. It has been a year and a half since the pandemic outbreak, but investigations into the virus and intermediate hosts have not produced any definitive conclusions. Instead, there are growing indications that the possibility of a Wuhan lab leak is increasing.

The U.S. mission to the U.N. agency in Geneva said in a statement Thursday that the World Health Organization’s investigation in China was “inadequate and inconclusive.” The statement called for a timely, transparent and evidence-based second phase of the investigation, including by China.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts to produce a conclusive report on the source of the virus within the next 90 days.

The U.S. mission said in a statement that “it is critical that China allow independent experts full access to complete data and samples that would help understand the original and early stages of the pandemic from which the virus originated.”

A representative of the Chinese Embassy in the United States said Thursday that China supports “a comprehensive investigation of all early cases of the new coronavirus found around the world, and a thorough investigation of a number of clandestine bases and biological laboratories around the world.”