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WHO reverses course, now claims COVID lab leak theory is still in play

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'All hypotheses remain open'

FABRICE COFFRINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization announced Thursday that all theories relating to the origin of the coronavirus pandemic are still being investigated and considered as possibilities, including a popular theory that suggests the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory.

The news comes only two days after a team of WHO researchers dispatched to Wuhan to determine the origins of the pandemic dismissed the lab leak theory, calling it "extremely unlikely." Instead, it appeared the 10-member team favored a theory suggesting the coronavirus made the jump to humans from animals perhaps sold in the nearby Huanan Seafood Market.

But on Thursday, the organization clarified that no final determination has been made.

"The expert team is still working on its final report and we look forward to receiving both the report and a full briefing," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Member States briefing.

"Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded. I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study," he added.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, a growing body of evidence has indicated the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where it just so happens researchers were studying coronaviruses in bats shortly before the initial outbreak. Later, leaked State Department cables showed that U.S. diplomats had concerns with safety protocols at the lab upon their visit in 2018.

Earlier this week, shortly after news broke that the team of investigators were not seriously considering the lab leak theory, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired back, claiming there is "significant evidence" for the theory and noting the WHO may have been corrupted by China.

"I must say the reason we left the World Health Organization was because we came to believe that it was corrupt," Pompeo said. "It had been politicized. It was bending a knee to General Secretary Xi Jinping in China. I hope that's not the case here with what they've announced today."

"I hope they got to see all the data, all the science, into the lab, talk to the doctors, interview them in private, in places where they could actually tell the truth about what took place," he continued. "Not under the supervision of a Communist Party person sitting in the back of the room making sure that they toed the Communist Party line. I look forward to seeing their results. I continue to know that there was significant evidence that this may well have come from that laboratory."

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