WHO experts in Wuhan discussed COVID-19 lab theory with Chinese scientists, says team leader

BEIJING: World Health Organization (WHO) inspectors had “very frank” discussions with Chinese scientists in regards to the supply of the COVID-19 pandemic, together with theories it leaked from a laboratory, the top of the probe in Wuhan advised AFP on Thursday (Feb 4).

The talks coated well-known claims extensively reported in world media, Peter Ben Embarek mentioned in an interview a day after he and his WHO team visited the lab.

While he didn’t determine particular theories, Ben Embarek described a few of them as irrational and insisted the investigators wouldn’t waste time chasing the wildest claims.

“The discussions were very frank,” the meals security scientist with the United Nations well being company mentioned by phone from Wuhan, the central Chinese metropolis the place the coronavirus was first detected in December 2019.

“We discussed … a lot of the famous theories and so on, and what has been done to explain them,” added Ben Embarak, who was primarily based in the WHO’s Beijing workplace for 2 years from 2009.

READ: Coronavirus was ‘not man-made or genetically modified’ – US spy agency

Since rising from a 14-day resort quarantine final week, the WHO experts have visited various high-profile websites linked to the pandemic origins, together with a seafood market the place folks have been first discovered falling in poor health.

The journey on Wednesday to the Wuhan Institute of Virology was one of many highest-profile occasions on the agenda due to the controversial theory it was the supply of the pandemic.

Scientists on the laboratory conduct analysis on among the world’s most harmful illnesses, together with strains of bat coronaviruses just like COVID-19.

READ: China bat caves need exploring in search for COVID-19 origins, WHO team member says

Speculation emerged early in the pandemic that the virus may have by chance leaked from the lab in Wuhan, though there was no proof to again up that theory.

Then-US president Donald Trump and his supporters seized on these rumours and amplified them with conspiracy theories that China intentionally leaked the virus.


Ben Embarek mentioned discussions on the lab have been helpful to know the workers’s place “in regards to many of these statements and claims that everyone has seen and read about in the news”.

He appeared to dismiss among the theories, calling a lot of the hypothesis “excellent scenarios for good movies and series for the years to come”.

He additionally emphasised the WHO investigators would “follow science and we follow facts” in reaching their conclusions.

READ: WHO slams critics of COVID-19 origins probe

“If we start following and chasing ghosts here and there, we’ll never move anywhere,” he advised AFP.

“So that’s also an important step that we were also able to understand where these stories are coming from.

“And we’re capable of, in a rational approach … clarify why a few of them are completely irrational, why a few of them may make sense, and why a few of them will be defined or not defined,” he said.

The team visited the institute’s P4 lab – Asia’s first maximum-security lab equipped to handle Class 4 pathogens such as Ebola.

Ben Embarek said the trip to Wuhan, which is due to conclude within the next week, would not lead to a final conclusion on how the virus jumped from animals to humans.

“We’re not going to return up with the last word full understanding of the origins of this virus, however it will likely be a superb first step,” he said.

“It might be a really sturdy and clear greatest approach we’ll lay for the right way to transfer ahead.”

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