by Andrew Kerr
The World Health Organization dedicated a little over one page to dismissing the lab leak theory at the very end of its 123-page COVID-19 origins report, according to a draft copy obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The draft report stated that the only way to increase scientific knowledge surrounding the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, would be to conduct “[r]egular administrative and internal review of high-level biosafety laboratories worldwide.”
While the draft report did acknowledge that lab accidents do happen, it stated that the lab leak hypothesis is “extremely unlikely” because the three laboratories in Wuhan that were working with coronaviruses prior to the pandemic “all had high quality biosafety level (BSL3 or 4) facilities that were well-managed” and had in place a staff monitoring program that showed “no reporting of COVID-19 compatible respiratory illnesses during the weeks/months prior to December 2019.”
Both statements conflict with previous claims by the U.S. government.
U.S. Embassy officials issued two diplomatic cables warning about inadequate safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) after visiting the lab in 2018. One of the cables warned that the lab’s work on bat-based coronaviruses represented the risk of a new SARS-like pandemic, according to The Washington Post.
And the State Department announced in January that it has evidence that researchers at the WIV became sick in Fall 2019 with flu-like symptoms.
The draft report also stated that an argument against the lab leak hypothesis is that there are no records of any viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in any laboratory in December 2019.
However, the draft report did not acknowledge that the WIV deleted public databases in September 2019 that contained information on at least 16,000 virus samples it had studied prior to the pandemic.
The sole U.S. member of the WHO team, EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak, said during a March 10 panel discussion that the WHO team did not request to see the deleted WIV databases because he had personally vouched for the lab. Daszak worked closely with the WIV prior to the pandemic, having transferred $600,000 in taxpayer funds to the lab as part of a research project studying bat-based coronaviruses.
Daszak said during a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday that the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs closely monitored the WHO team’s meetings with Chinese scientists at the WIV.
Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO-led inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 virus and expert on coronaviruses, says the team looked into the theory that the virus originated in an accidental lab leak, but deemed the theory “extremely unlikely.” https://t.co/4RhcMEZcbc pic.twitter.com/uZY3fNhPT3
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 28, 2021
The origin report faced broad skepticism prior to its release.
“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into the report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
And on Monday, Georgetown University’s Larry Gostin, a professor of global health law told The Washington Post on Monday: “I don’t think the global community can have confidence in this report, because of China’s lack of transparency on necessary data sources, as well as the close relationship the team had to have with China.”
He noted that “we may never know the origins of the pandemic.”
The WHO team did not consider the theories that COVID-19 could have been deliberately released or deliberately bioengineered for release, the draft report stated.
The draft report disclosed that the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention did move its laboratory to a new location near the Huanan wet market on Dec. 2, 2019, just days before the onset of the first known case of COVID-19 on Dec. 8 and that such moves “can be disruptive for the operations of any laboratory.”
But the draft report also stated that the Wuhan CDC lab reported no storage of coronaviruses or other bat viruses prior to the outbreak and that there were “no disruptions or incidents” due to the move.
The draft report did not address the State Department’s claim that the WIV has engaged in secret projects with the Chinese military.
Dr. Shi Zhengli, the Chinese scientist responsible for overseeing research at the WIV said last Tuesday that the U.S. government is incorrect in stating her lab works with the Chinese military.
“From my knowledge, all our research work is open, is transparent,” Shi said. “At the beginning of COVID-19, we heard the rumors that claimed our laboratory would have some project blah blah with army blah blah … but this is not correct, because I am the director and responsible for research activity. I don’t know any kind of research work performed in this lab.”
The draft report offered no definitive answer on the origin of COVID-19 but said the most likely explanation was that the virus jumped from animals to humans through an intermediary host.
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Andrew Kerr is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “World Health Organization” by Yann Forget. CC BY-SA 4.0.