India on Friday extended its support to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) led global study on the origins of Covid-19.
In response to media queries on India’s stand on the WHO convened global study on the origins of COVID-19, the MEA spokesperson said, “The WHO convened global study on the origin of Covid-19 is an important first step. It stressed the need for next phase studies as also for further data and studies to reach robust conclusions. The follow-up of the WHO report and further studies deserve the understanding and cooperation of all.”
Earlier this year, WHO-led teams had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan in January and February to investigate the origins of the virus. In a report later, which was co-authored with Chinese researchers, the WHO team concluded that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans via intermediary species, and that “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway”.
The clean chit given to China and the fact that the report was co-authored by Chinese researchers parked a massive furore online, with people raising doubts over the authenticity of the claims made in the report. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is himself accused of being partial to China, later distanced himself from the findings of a WHO-led mission. He said the laboratory leak was the “least likely” hypotheses, but still needed “further investigation.”
Now, the United States has asked the WHO to initiate the second phase of its investigation into the origins of COVID-19, with independent experts given full access to original data and samples in China.
The lab-leak theory is gaining increasing traction in the United States and other western countries after Biden Administration had issued a directive to the US intelligence agencies to investigate the competing theories on how the virus first emerged—a zoonotic spillover at a wet market in Wuhan, China, or through accidental release from a research laboratory in the same city.
On Thursday, the US mission to the UN in Geneva deemed the initial WHO study to be “insufficient and inconclusive”, calling for what it called a timely, transparent and evidence-based second probe to be conducted, including in China.
“It is critical that China provides independent experts full access to complete, original data and samples relevant to understanding the source of the virus and the early stages of the pandemic,” the US statement said.