G-7 and Biden pin hopes on WHO to lead follow-up COVID-19 origins investigation

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The United States and its allies are pinning their hopes for a second COVID-19 origins investigation in China on the World Health Organization, despite the WHO-China joint study team’s visit to Wuhan earlier this year that essentially dismissed the lab leak hypothesis being widely considered a failure.

The Trump and Biden administrations cast doubt on the joint study by Chinese government-linked scientists and international scientists organized under the auspices of the WHO that was conducted in China early this year. The WHO-China report said a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” and that a jump from animals to humans was most likely. Meeting minutes from discussions between Wuhan lab scientists and the WHO-China team reveal lab leak concerns were referred to as “conspiracy theories.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in March that the lab leak hypothesis still needed further study.

The G-7 summit’s communique this weekend called for the WHO to set up a follow-up investigation into COVID-19’s origins in China.

“We therefore commit both to strengthen global action now to fight COVID-19, and to take further tangible steps to improve our collective defences against future threats and to bolster global health and health security. This includes strengthening the World Health Organization and supporting it in its leading and coordinating role in the global health system,” the G-7 said. “We also call for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.”

WHO-CHINA TEAM LABELED WUHAN LAB LEAK CONCERNS AS 'CONSPIRACY THEORIES'

During a press conference at the close of the summit, Biden was asked what he thought China needed to do to ease tensions.

“I think China has to start to act more responsibly in terms of international norms on human rights and transparency,” Biden said. “Transparency matters across the board, and I think the idea that ... we haven’t had access to the laboratories to determine whether or not — and I have not reached a conclusion because our intelligence community is not certain yet — whether or not this was a consequence of from the marketplace, of a bat interfacing with animals in the environment that caused this COVID-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory.”

Biden added: “It’s important to know the answer to that because we have to have access. We have to build the system whereby we can know what when we see another lack of transparency might produce another pandemic.”

A September report from Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee contended the Chinese Communist Party’s coronavirus cover-up and the WHO’s fumbling of the crisis allowed the coronavirus outbreak to grow into a deadly pandemic. Matt Pottinger, a former Trump deputy national security adviser, said in January that “[members of parliament] around the world have a moral role to play in exposing the WHO investigation as a Potemkin exercise,” a facade designed to hide undesirable facts.

Tedros said last Thursday: “Even as we remain resolutely focused on supporting countries to end the pandemic, we are also refining our plans for the second phase of studies on the origins of SARS-CoV-2. In the coming days, we will be issuing a call for nominations of experts to participate in the second phase of this scientific mission.”

During remarks at the G-7, Tedros said: “At the root of the pandemic is a deficit of solidarity and sharing … WHO believes the best way to close that deficit is with an international agreement, a treaty, convention, call it what you will, to provide the basis for improved preparedness, detection, and response, and for improved cooperation to identify the origins of new pathogens.”

Tedros spoke in reference to the millions who have died during the pandemic, saying, "This is very tragic, and I think the respect these people deserve is knowing what the origin of this virus is so we can prevent it from happening again … We believe that all hypotheses should be open, and we need to proceed with the second phase to really know the origins.” He also critiqued China, adding: “As you know, we need cooperation from the Chinese side. We need transparency to understand and know or find the origins of this virus. … After the report was released, there were difficulties in the data-sharing, especially in the raw data.”

A State Department fact sheet released in January contended Wuhan lab researchers “conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar)” and that the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” The fact sheet also contended that the lab “has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military” and that lab workers became sick with COVID-19-like symptoms in autumn 2019.

Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan weighed in on the WHO and the next stage of the COVID-19 investigation during a June press conference.

“We have made clear from the beginning of this administration, and in rejoining, that we believe the WHO does need to be reformed," Sullivan said.

He added that some of the needed reforms "relate to very targeted issues, like the COVID-19 origins investigation, where I have personally, and we collectively, have been quite vocal about our view that there needs to be a second round to this investigation that truly gets to the heart of the matter, which is the original data and original information that is still being withheld by China."

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The intelligence community confirmed last month that one of its 18 spy agencies is leaning toward the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis on COVID-19’s origins, while two are leaning toward a natural origin.

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Tags: News, China, Coronavirus, Wuhan Lab, Joe Biden, Donald Trump

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: G-7 and Biden pin hopes on WHO to lead follow-up COVID-19 origins investigation

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