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Leading experts on infectious diseases have called out the World Health Organization for its supposed failure in properly investigating the source of the COVID-19 pandemic - specifically if it came from a laboratory.

A group of eighteen scientists from the world's top institutions - including the universities of Cambridge, Harvard, Yale - have released an official stand, demanding the WHO to conduct further investigations into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover [from animals to humans] both remain viable," the experts wrote in the statement letter "Investigate the origins of COVID-19" published in the journal Science, May 14.

COVID-19 Response
(Photo : US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman via Wikimedia Commons)
Lieutenant (junior grade) Natasha McClinton, a surgical nurse, prepares a patient for a procedure in the intensive care unit aboard the U.S. the hospital ship USNS Comfort. The ship cares for critical and non critical patients without regard to their COVID-19 status.

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Origins of COVID-19

In their letter, the signatories traced the global response to the emerging coronavirus pandemic. By as far as December 30, 2019, the Internet-based outbreak watchdog Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) has released a statement informing the world about "a pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China. Since this notification, researchers around the world have strived to understand the agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), as well as its pathogenesis, transmission, potential vaccine mitigation, therapeutics, and even non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Then the signatories, "scientists with relevant expertise," expresses support with the WHO director-general, fourteen countries including the United States, and the European Union (EU), to investigate the matter further. They stress "that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve."

Among the signatories is Ravindra Gupta, a geneticist from Cambridge who was instrumental in the UK's response to the coronavirus and its variants. Another member is Ralph Baric, an American epidemiologist who has worked on bat coronaviruses together with the Wuhan scientist known as the "Bat Woman," Shi Zhengli, even before the pandemic erupted. One of their studies, published in November 2015 in the journal Nature, was updated by the journal editors since it recirculated in support of theories saying that COVID-19 was engineered.

Additionally, news outlets report that the work including Baric and Zhengli was funded by the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, leaked emails reveal that Baric declined to join Peter Daszak, director of the global charity, in efforts to dismiss the ideas of a possible laboratory leak of the virus.

A Call for Further Investigation

Signatories of the letter to Science calls out the WHO inquiry for stating that a laboratory leak was "extremely unlikely," even when there are no findings in clear support of whether COVID-19 was the result of a lab accident or a natural spillover. Additionally, scientists in the letter argues that both theories were not given a balanced consideration, noting how only four out of 313 pages of the WHO report and its annexes actually addresses the possibilities of the pandemic being a laboratory accident. Furthermore, the experts behind the letter noted WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus' comment admitting that WHO report's consideration of evidences pointing to a laboratorary accident was insufficient.

The experts called for a proper investigation that is both transparent and objective, adding that is should be subject to independent oversight and managed responsibly to minimize conflicts of interests on the matter.

 

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