While the WHO expert mission’s conclusions on the origin of the new coronavirus are still waiting for the Chinese side’s endorsement, Robert Redfield, the recently departed director of the CDC, told CNN on Friday that he believes the new coronavirus was “leaked” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Chinese Academy of Sciences and began spreading in September through October 2019. There is no clear evidence that the new coronavirus was leaked from the WIV. Redfield emphasized that this is his “personal opinion.”
“I still think the most likely ideology of this pathogen in Wuhan was that it escaped from a laboratory. Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine,” Redfield told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “Science will eventually figure it out.
“It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect a laboratory worker,” Redfield said. He did not think it makes “biological sense” that the virus would be able to spread so well between humans if it had just made the jump from animals to humans. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been a focus of the theory that the virus escaped from a lab. “I do not believe this somehow came from a bat to a human.”
The WIV has a P4 virus research laboratory, which is the only scientific institution owned by China that can study the most virulent infectious disease viruses with the highest safety requirements. It is about 14 km from Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market.
Some scientists have long said that the new coronavirus could have come from an incident at the WIV, but a joint WHO-China expert panel came to the preliminary conclusion a few weeks ago that the hypothesis that the new coronavirus came from an incident at the WIV was “highly unlikely.” The panel proposed that the most likely scenario was that it was transmitted to humans through an unknown animal as an intermediate host to humans.
However, the WHO’s preliminary conclusions were highly controversial. According to later statements that the WHO experts involved in the mission made, the most critical issue was that China refused to provide the WHO experts with original data on the first patients who appeared in Wuhan, . In response, the Biden administration said it had “deep concerns” about the circumstances of the WHO expert mission and demanded that Beijing be transparent and release all information. The U.S. also called for a truly independent international investigation.
A year after the Wuhan outbreak, China finally agreed to a joint investigation that Chinese and international experts would conduct. The final investigation report has been postponed several times, except for a highly controversial press conference on February 9. On March 5, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that the joint investigation report should be released on March 15. Then on March 16, a WHO spokesperson announced that “It is highly likely that the report will be published next week.” Three days later, China responded via Western social networks that Chinese experts received the report in English on March 17 and that its release next week would depend on discussions between Chinese and international experts.
It has been pointed out that the report of the WHO Joint Expert Group on New Coronary Traceability Research, which is about 300 pages long, must be approved by more than 10 experts from China and the international community before it can be made public. After the publication, WHO will study the report and propose the next step to member states.
On March 4, more than 30 scientists wrote in the Wall Street Journal and the French newspaper Le Monde requesting an independent scientific mission to visit China and trace the origin. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic responded that the WHO could neither get China to accept a fully independent investigation nor a report that would not be in its interest.
When the outbreak of the new corona virus occurred in Hubei, China, Le Monde reported that the current dispute between international scientists involved in the investigation and the Chinese side may be over. Although Chinese authorities tried to get the outside world to accept that the outbreak occurred in December, additional information suggests that it was much earlier. The March 18 issue of the Science journal cites the latest research that points to human-to-human transmission of the new corona outbreak in Hubei in October 2019.
Source: Radio France International, March 26, 2021