Global experts have called for a second ‘unrestricted’ investigation into the source of COVID-19, claiming the WHO China visit was ‘limited’.
International virus experts are demanding another investigation into the source of COVID-19, amid concerns China had too much control over the last.
In an open letter, academics from across the globe, including the Australian National University, called for an “unrestricted international forensic investigation”.
The group said despite previous studies, we are no further in finding the answers needed to determine the origin of the virus.
“Finding the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is critically important to both better addressing the current pandemic and reducing the risks of future one” the letter reads.
“Unfortunately, well over a year after the initial outbreak, the origins of the pandemic remain unknown.”
In January, a team of scientists chosen by the World Health Organisation visited hospitals and research institutes in Wuhan, the virus epicentre, in search of clues.
But the previous venture has been criticised by the group behind the letter. They said there were several “structural limitations” built into the endeavour.
“We wish to raise public awareness of the fact that half of the joint team convened under that process is made of Chinese citizens whose scientific independence may be limited, that international members of the joint team had to rely on information the Chinese authorities chose to share with them, and that any joint team report must be approved by both the Chinese and international members of the joint team,” the group wrote in the letter.
They argued the team didn’t have the independence or necessary access to carry out a full investigation.
In the letter, the group provided a list of requirements that should be met for a proper inquiry.
This includes being carried out by an independent team so there’s no conflict of interest or “partial control by any specific agenda or country”.
They also want the team to be made of experts from various fields, from virologists to wildlife experts, and have full access to records and sites, including the wet markets at Wuhan.
“We recognise that as an international agency that must rely on the collaboration of its member states, the World Health Organisation is limited in what it can achieve in this type of investigation,” the group said.
“It is not our intention to undermine the WHO, which is working under challenging circumstances at a time of tremendous global need.”
Earlier experts questioned the purpose of WHO’s mission which wrapped up in mid-February after scientists spent 28 days on the ground.
“It hasn‘t really given us new information,” Peter Collignon, a pathologist at ANU who has previously worked on WHO research projects, told ABC News at the time.
“I know some of those experts and I think they’re very good but they’re limited to the information they’re given, and there was a real hesitation in even letting them come.”
The most politically charged theory, that the virus leaked from a research lab, was deemed too unlikely by initial research team.
Instead they referred to the original theory, that it was transmitted from bats, or another animal, to humans.
The small group of scientists behind the letter hinted at the idea that this is unlikely.