Some Scientists Question W.H.O. Inquiry Into the Coronavirus Pandemic’s Origins

Those who still suspect the outbreak in China may have been caused by a lab leak or accident are pressing for an independent investigation.


By James Gorman

A small group of scientists and others who believe the novel coronavirus that spawned the pandemic could have originated from a lab leak or accident is calling for an inquiry independent of the World Health Organization’s team of independent experts sent to China last month.

While many scientists involved in researching the origins of the virus continue to assert that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic almost certainly began in a leap from bats to an intermediate animal to humans, other theories persist and have gained new visibility with the W.H.O.-led team of experts’ visit to China. Officials with the W.H.O. have said in recent interviews that it was “extremely unlikely” but not impossible that the spread of the virus was linked to some lab accident.

The open letter, first reported in The Wall Street Journal and the French publication Le Monde, lists what the signers see as flaws in the joint W.H.O.-China inquiry, and state that it could not adequately address the possibility that the virus leaked from a lab. The letter further posits the type of investigation that would be adequate, including full access to records within China.

The W.H.O. mission, as with everything involving China and the coronavirus, has been political from the start as the international team’s members acknowledged.

Letter Seeking International Inquiry Into Origins of the Coronavirus

Some scientists are calling for an investigation independent of that under way by a team of scientists and the World Health Organization into the source of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China.

Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University and one of the scientists who signed the letter, said it grew out of a series of online discussions among scientists, policy experts and others who came to be known informally as the Paris group. Many of those who signed the letter were based in France and Dr. Ebright, who has been outspoken about the need to investigate a possible laboratory leak, said such discussion had been less vigorous in the United States.

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