Don't Rely on US Intelligence: American Scientist in WHO Covid-19 Probe Team Bats for China

The WHO's team of experts said that the COVID-19 outbreak almost certainly did not start in a Chinese lab but its path from animals to humans needs further investigation.

A member of the team from the World Health Organization (WHO) that visited China to investigate the origin of the novel Coronavirus hit out at the US on Wednesday amid Washington's doubts about the probe.

American scientist Peter Daszak, who was the WHO's COVID-19 investigation team member, said on Twitter that US President Joe Biden "has to look tough on China".

"Please don't rely too much on US intel: increasingly disengaged under Trump and frankly wrong on many aspects, " he added in the Tweet.

The comments from Daszak on the social media platform came with an article link about US State Department views that cast doubts on the transparency of Beijing's cooperation with WHO's investigation.

The Investigation in China

The experts from the UN agency faced several challenges while entering China and during their investigation. The visit of WHO's team was approved by President Xi Jinping's government after months of diplomatic wrangling that led director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to criticize Chinese authorities.

Over the past year, China used a variety of tactics to obstruct the WHO's investigation. After rejecting demands from other countries to allow independent investigators in China to study the COVID-19 origin, the Chinese authorities finally let two WHO experts visit in July 2020. But at that time nothing was found.

While wrapping up the recent visit to China, the team of experts said on Tuesday that the COVID-19 outbreak almost certainly did not start in a Chinese lab but its path from animals to humans needs further investigation.

"Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific, targeted research," said Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO scientific delegation.

Like many people around that world, former US President Donald Trump frequently laid the blame for the pandemic on China. He also repeatedly said that the US has information indicating that China is the culprit. Without releasing any document, he also claimed that the novel virus may have escaped from Wuhan lab. But as the WHO team said, the lab leak is "extremely unlikely".

Before the team of scientists began the investigation, China warned against the politicization of the issue. There has been widespread concern regarding scientists' access to data about the virus outbreak. The US authorities voiced their skepticism after WHO scientists concluded that lab leak was unlikely.

Peter Daszak
Peter Daszak EcoHealth Alliance

Dazak is the president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, which is a nonprofit research organization that focuses on understanding where the pandemics come from, the risk factors and when a pandemic will emerge. His own credibility has been under criticism due to the connection between EcoHealth Alliance and the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Even though the WHO team could not find solid proof to explain the origin of the novel virus, they decided not to rule out the theory that SARS-CoV-2 originated outside China and was carried to Wuhan on frozen animal product packages.

Embarek said: "We know the virus can persist and survive in conditions that are found in cold and frozen environments. But we don't understand if the virus can then transmit to humans and under which conditions."