- A top WHO official said Friday that investigations into the origins of Covid-19 are being "poisoned by politics."
- The WHO has been repeatedly accused of allowing the Chinese government to avoid a thorough investigation into the origins of Covid-19.
- U.S. health officials continue to maintain that the virus likely has zoonotic, or animal, origins.
A top World Health Organization official said Friday that investigations into the origins of Covid-19 are being "poisoned by politics."
U.S. President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he's ordered intelligence agencies to conduct "a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of Covid-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident."
The WHO has come under increasing pressure in recent days from U.S. and European officials to take another look at whether the coronavirus could have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, after a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report came to light, revealing that three researchers sought hospital care after falling ill with Covid-like symptoms in November 2019.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program, asked if countries could separate the politics from the science.
"Putting WHO in a position like it has been put in is very unfair to the science we're trying to carry out, and it puts us as an organization, frankly, in an impossible position to deliver the answers that the world wants," Ryan said at a news briefing.
The WHO has been repeatedly accused of allowing the Chinese government to avoid a thorough investigation into the origins of Covid-19, which was first discovered in Wuhan in late 2019. At a Senate hearing earlier this week Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., pressed White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci on the WHO's close ties to China.
"Can we agree that if you took (Chinese) President Xi Jinping and turned him upside down and shook him, the World Health Organization would fall out of his pocket?" Fauci responded by saying that he has no way of knowing China's influence on the agency.
The hypothesis that Covid-19 came from a Wuhan virology lab was initially dismissed as a right-wing conspiracy theory, but it's been gaining traction in recent weeks.
The majority of the intelligence community believes that it is equally plausible that the virus originated in a lab and in an animal. Federal health officials continue to maintain their position that it is more likely that the virus has zoonotic origins. The CDC's website still states "we know that it originally came from an animal, likely a bat."