The World Health Organization (WHO) is increasing pressure on China to provide information on the origins of the Covid pandemic. The WHO has requested “full access” to China to investigate how the virus spread to humans and caused a global crisis. In 2021, the WHO conducted an initial investigation into the origins of Covid, which concluded that it emerged naturally. However, the investigation faced criticism for a lack of cooperation from Beijing, who allegedly withheld key data and samples and refused to discuss the lab leak theory unless the final report stated no further investigation was necessary. WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has now written to Beijing, urging them to allow access to investigators. Scientists believe understanding the origin of the pandemic is vital to prevent future outbreaks. While some support the theory that the virus originated in bats and infected an intermediary species before jumping to humans, others believe it may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was conducting experiments on live bats. The initial WHO investigation concluded that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely,” but criticism has grown regarding China’s lack of transparency. The WHO has faced criticism itself for defending China during the pandemic, but as the origins of the virus remain unclear, WHO officials have become more willing to criticize China. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid, has accused China of hiding crucial data on the virus’s origins, noting that the failure to share information hinders the understanding of the pandemic and potentially prevents the prevention of future pandemics. Scientists warn that time is running out to learn the exact origin of Covid and to gather crucial lessons for preventing similar outbreaks in the future.
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