New Delhi: In the latest revelation, one of the top officials, who was part of the World Health Organization (WHO) led team that travelled to China earlier this year, said the laboratory close to the seafood market where the first human cases were detected was handling coronaviruses “without potentially having the same level of expertise or safety or who knows.”
Peter Ben Embarek, who is a WHO expert on disease transmission from animals to humans and one of the team’s leader was worried about the safety concerns of the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, according to AFP report.
In fact, Jamie Metzl, who has been spearheading the move calling for an independent investigation referred to Ben Embarek’s comments as “a game-changer,” and reiterating his earlier declaration that a lab leak was unlikely “shameful.”
“It’s even more significant that the international expert team who stated with such confidence in the February Wuhan press event that a lab origin was unlikely themselves believed this was not the case and were simply trying to assuage their Chinese government-affiliated hosts,” said Metzl, who sits on a WHO advisory board on human genome editing, as per the agency.
In fact, scientists on the WHO-led team is said to be approved by China and the team’s agenda and final report were also vetted by the Chinese government. Ben Embarek told the channel that the purpose of the WHO team’s visit was “collaboration and discussion” with China.
What are the latest observations of top WHO official?
The concerns were shared during a conference call in January, according to footage shown by TV2, as per the report. In the Danish TV2 documentary, the WHO’s Ben Embarek can be seen arriving in China where he was inspecting the stalls at the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan. He also examined living quarters for people who handled live animals exploring the hypothesis that the virus may have jumped from animals to people at the market.
“It would mean that the contact between the human beings and whatever may have been in the market i.e. virus and maybe live animals would have been more intense,” Ben Embarek said. “It goes without saying that the close contact would be doubled many times between humans and animals if you are among them around the clock.”
In a June interview, Ben Embarek told TV2 that the possibility of a lab staffer being infected with the coronavirus while collecting bat samples was “likely.”
How does it contradict the WHO version?
After several months later, the UN health agency’s report on its mission to Wuhan, said a leak of the virus from the lab was “extremely unlikely” to have caused Covid-19. The WHO report went on to support the fringe theory promoted by the Chinese government that the virus may have been spread via frozen seafood packaging.
Even after the above report refuted the rumors, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also recently acknowledged it was “ premature ” to rule out a possible lab leak as the source of the deadly virus, saying he insisted that China remain more transparent about the early days of the pandemic.
“I was a lab technician myself. I’m an immunologist and I have worked in the lab and lab accidents happen,” Tedros said, as per the agency. “It’s common.”
The theory has been largely dismissed last year but only gained momentum recently, with US President Joe Biden asking a review of US intelligence and increasing numbers of scientists calling for an independent investigation to be conducted by authorities beyond the WHO.
The global body on Thursday said the search for the pandemic’s origins “should not be an exercise in attributing blame, finger-pointing or political point-scoring.” The agency said its first analysis of the coronavirus origins found “there was insufficient scientific evidence to rule any of the hypotheses out.”
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