The next phase of the World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic must be more scientific and data-driven, a group of scientists wrote in an open letter to the WHO on Friday.
China should not be permitted to veto the team members chosen for the next WHO-led investigation and the team should be granted full access to related data such as medical records and biological samples, signers of the letter wrote.
The letter is authored by various international scientists and academics and co-organized by Jamie Metzl, a WHO advisor and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank.
A WHO-led team released a report in March on the origins of the pandemic, but the team was denied access to important data. The WHO’s director-general, the White House, the U.S. State Department and 13 other countries expressed concern that the WHO team’s report was compromised. (RELATED: There Are A Lot Of Reasons To Be Skeptical Of WHO’s Report On COVID-19 Origins)
The WHO team that traveled to Wuhan in January to investigate COVID-19’s origins was tasked by World Health Assembly resolution 73.1 with identifying only “the zoonotic source of the virus,” or its transfer from animals to humans. Instead, it should be given the objective of investigating all possible origins of the pandemic, including from a lab leak, according to the letter.
The WHO team also was not given the mission of performing an investigation, but rather to “recommend, help design, and review scientific studies,” the letter says. “This meant that performing an investigation, let alone a forensic audit of laboratories, was beyond the remit of the joint mission,” according to the letter.
Going ahead, the WHO team must be given a different objective: “to conduct a full scientific and forensic investigation into all possible origins of COVID-19, be it zoonotic or not,” according to the letter. (RELATED: Here’s Why The Lab Leak Theory Shouldn’t Be Dismissed)
Additionally, the team should be permitted to do its work with “no unnecessary presence of host government non-scientific personnel,” the letter says.
NIH Director Francis Collins said Wednesday at a