A letter published in the academic journal “Science” on Thursday called for a new and truly independent investigation of all possible origins of the COVID-19, including the alleged laboratory accident releasing the virus in Wuhan, China, The Hill reported.
“Understanding the origins of the pandemic is essential to addressing our vulnerabilities and preventing future crises,” the letter read. “Unfortunately, as outlined in previous open letters released on March 4 and April 7, structural, procedural, and analytical shortcomings of the WHO-convened joint study into COVID-19 origins have created unnecessary barriers to this understanding.”
It was signed by 25 scientists and academics and organized by Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, D.C.; Virginie Courtier, an evolutionary geneticist with the Institut Jacques Monod, CNRS, in France; and Gilles Demaneuf, an engineer and data scientist with the Bank of New Zealand, The Hill reported.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the report an “important beginning” but observed it failed to find the source of the virus.
“As scientists with relevant expertise, we agree with the WHO director-general, the United States and 13 other countries and the European Union that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve,” the scientists wrote in the letter.
A team of experts from WHO carried out an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus from January to February 2021, more than a year after the first illnesses were reported in Wuhan in December 2019.
Back in March, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported what it concluded were the origins of the virus, saying the virus most likely jumped from an intermediate animal to humans.
The report also said it was “extremely unlikely” the virus escaped from a government lab in Wuhan. However, investigators were unable to determine exactly how and when the original inter-species transmission took place. The letter observes, while there were no findings in clear support of either a natural spillover or lab accident, the team of investigators assessed the zoonotic spillover from an intermediate host theory as “likely to very likely” and the lab accident theory as “extremely unlikely,” according to The Hill.
“We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data,” the scientists wrote in the letter. “A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest.”
Scientists believe “the two theories were not given balanced consideration,” the letter claimed.
That report was also carped because the investigation was not extensive enough, as access to raw data was restricted by Chinese authorities who refused to provide World Health Organization investigators with raw, personalized data on early COVID-19 cases that could help them determine how and when the coronavirus first began to spread in China, according to WHO investigators who described heated exchanges over the lack of detail, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The letter follows several similar public statements from other groups of scientists all over the world calling for a new and more transparent investigation.
The pandemic has caused more than 3.3 million deaths worldwide.