Just weeks after investigators with the World Health Organization entered Wuhan, the central China city where the coronavirus pandemic originated, the WHO has concluded that COVID-19 most likely did not escape from the infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology.
What is the background?
The WHO dispatched a 10-member investigative team to Wuhan last month, which arrived in the city on Thursday, Jan. 14. The researchers were only allowed into the city after Chinese President Xi Jinping approved the investigation.
The investigators were reportedly hamstrung by the Chinese government, which enacted strict testing and quarantine measures on the researchers.
From NBC News:
A government spokesman said this week they will "exchange views" with Chinese scientists but gave no indication whether they would be allowed to gather evidence. They will undergo a two-week quarantine as well as a throat swab test and an antibody test for Covid-19, according to CGTN, the English-language channel of state broadcaster CCTV. They are to start working with Chinese experts via video conference while in quarantine.
The most accepted theory for COVID-19 by the scientific community is that the virus jumped from animals to humans in 2019 through unsanitary conditions at a Wuhan wet market. Beijing, however, rejects this theory, and has claimed the virus originated outside China.
Still, one of the leading theories about the virus origin is that it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology — where scientists have been conducting research for years on coronaviruses — either by leak or accident.
What did the WHO say?
Just 26 days after arriving in China, WHO investigators claim it is "extremely unlikely" that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan bio-laboratory.
"The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population," Peter Ben Embarek, an expert with the WHO food safety and animal diseases division, said, the Associated Press reported.
In sum, Embarek said the investigation in Wuhan "did not dramatically change the current understanding of the early days of the pandemic," according to the Associated Press.
Given the WHO's cozy relationship with China, former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the WHO last year.
Prior to withdrawal, Trump halted the flow of American taxpayer money to the WHO.
"Today I am instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization's role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus," Trump said last April.
President Joe Biden has already rejoined the WHO.