WHO chief succumbs to US-led West’s pressure in virus origins remarks
Published: Jul 16, 2021 08:40 PM
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivering remarks following the speech of US President's chief medical adviser during a World Health Organization (WHO) executive board meeting on January 21, 2021 in Geneva. Photo: VCG

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Photo: VCG

World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has succumbed to US-led West's multiple layers of political pressure, calling on China to be transparent and open in further COVID-19 origins studies, Chinese observers said, which cannot replace majority scientific views of the natural origins hypothesis and will question WHO's credibility and professionalism. 

Tedros said at Thursday's media briefing that getting access to raw data had been a challenge for phase 1 COVID-19 origins study, asking China to be transparent, open and cooperate.

What's more, he said there had been a "premature push" to rule out the theory that the virus might have escaped from a lab.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry Zhao Lijian said at Friday's media briefing that international experts from the China-WHO study group on COVID-19 origins said many times that they accessed substantive data and information and fully understood that some information could not be copied or taken out of China due to privacy. 

Tedros is scheduled to share proposals for a phase 2 study into the origins of the coronavirus with member states on Friday, its emergency director Mike Ryan said.

Zhao said that China is studying the proposals for a phase 2 study, and the next phase study should be led by member states, agreed through consultation and based on the China-WHO joint study report, which concluded that the lab leak hypothesis is extremely unlikely, and that we should look for possible early cases of the outbreak more widely around the world and further understand the role of cold chains and frozen food. 

Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told Global Times on Friday that what Tedros said made no sense and his remarks cannot replace scientific conclusions, which was reached through independent scientific studies by some 30 top-notch international scientists. 

"Such a conclusion cannot be made by some bureaucratic organization," Zeng said. 

"I believe Tedros made such remarks out of pressure from some Western countries as the phase 2 origins study was about to begin, and he also needs the West's support as he plans to run for a second five-year term as the head of the agency," Zeng said.

With regard to the requirement to share raw data, Chinese observers said China has presented item by item raw data to WHO experts during the joint China-WHO study. 

As for the lab leak theory, the China-WHO study report has stated clearly that the hypothesis is highly unlikely, and all parties should respect scientists' conclusions, and WHO in particular, should play a leading role, analysts said. 

A Beijing-based immunologist who requested anonymity told the Global Times that the WHO has been under the US' multiple layers of pressure, and succumbing to US pressure will result in WHO's professionalism in public health being questioned globally, which will seriously affect future scientific study on COVID-19 origins. 

The US exerted political pressure to the WHO for the purpose of containing China and shifted its blame on the COVID-19 response to China, and economically, the Biden administration may threaten the WHO with its fund. Lastly, many of the WHO's scientists are from the US-led West whose academic views were being influenced by their governments, the immunologist said.  

Chinese observers said the US' politicization of coronavirus origins will make the further study come to an impasse. 

More countries have recently stepped out opposing the politicization. Forty-eight countries have sent letters to the WHO opposing the politicization of the probe on the origins of the virus, urging the organization to act according to the resolution made by the World Health Assembly (WHA) and push forward the global probe on the traceability of the virus, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Thursday, stressing it shows that objective and fair justice still accounts for the majority. 

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley posted on Twitter that "I stressed that Barbados only supports a science-based approach with respect to determining the origins of COVID-19."

As for next-stage coronavirus origins study, Zeng said that the US should be prioritized, as the country was slow to test people at an early stage, and it possesses so many biological laboratories all around the world. "All bio-weapons related subjects that the country has should be subject to scrutiny," Zeng said.

Several virologists and analysts interviewed by the Global Times have urged the Fort Detrick lab to open its doors for an international investigation.