The World Health Organization announced it is launching another investigation into the origins of COVID-19 after its first investigative committee came under fire for downplaying the lab-leak theory and having financial ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The new panel will have an independent advisory group, the organization said, and will focus on the “origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential, including MERS-CoV, Ebola, and avian influenza,” the agency said in a statement.
The independent groups also says it will look into the previous investigation of COVID-19’s origins to see it it might have been tainted by undue influence from China or corruption among the investigators.
“This is critical to helping WHO, member states and partner institutions to prepare for future spillover threats and to minimize the risk of a disease outbreak growing into a pandemic,” said the statement.
In March, the WHO sent its first investigative committee to China to help determine where the coronavirus came from and how it spread.
The committee’s report was directly influenced by China, according to a top WHO official, and dismissed the theory that COVID-19 escaped from the Wuhan lab as “extremely unlikely.”
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admitted after the fact that it was “premature” to dismiss the lab-leak theory, describing lab accidents as “common.”
Peter Embarek, one of the WHO officials involved in the first investigation, also admitted that a lab leak was probable, but said the committee downplayed this possibility because China demanded it.
Chinese officials only agreed to discuss the lab-leak theory in the report “on the condition we didn’t recommend any specific studies to further that hypothesis,” Embarek said.
When asked why the Chinese government resisted the WHO’s efforts to discuss the lab-leak theory, he said the Chinese political system does not allow authorities to acknowledge “human error.”
“It probably means there’s a human error behind such an event, and they’re not very happy to admit that,” he claimed.
“The whole system focuses a lot on being infallible, and everything must be perfect,” he continued. “Somebody could also wish to hide something. Who knows?”