The World Health Organization has not abandoned plans to identify the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, urging countries against making scientific research a “geopolitical football.”  

Earlier this week, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s chief had pointed towards a “lab leak” in Wuhan (China) as the possible source of the virus that triggered the pandemic. The FBI chief’s statement makes him the latest voice from the US suggesting such a possibility.  

“As we have said before, if any country has information about the origins of the pandemic, it is essential for that information to be shared with WHO and the international scientific community – not so as to apportion blame, but to advance our understanding of how this pandemic started, so we can prevent, prepare for and respond to future epidemics and pandemics,” Dr. Tedros said.

The WHO has called on China to be transparent in sharing data, and to conduct the necessary investigations and share results. “To that effect, I have written to, and spoken with, high-level Chinese leaders on multiple occasions, as recently as just a few weeks ago. Until then, all hypotheses on the origins of the virus remain on the table,” he said. 

Geopolitical football   

“The continued politicisation of the origins research has turned what should be a purely scientific process into a geopolitical football, which only makes the task of identifying the origins more difficult. And that makes the world less safe,” said Dr Tedros. 

On the WHO’s efforts, he said, in 2021, WHO established the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO. And its report last year identified key studies that must be done in China and elsewhere to verify or eliminate the various hypotheses for the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

“Understanding the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic remains a scientific imperative, to inform measures to prevent future epidemics and pandemics, and a moral imperative, for the sake of the millions of people and their families who have lost their lives to Covid-19, and those who continue to live with post-Covid-19 condition,” he added. .