According to one of the writers of an open letter calling for a new investigation into the pandemic, despite a high-profile visit to China by a team of international experts in January, the world is no closer to understanding the source of COVID-19.
"We are no further along than we were a year ago," said Nikolai Petrovsky, a vaccine specialist at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and one of the 26 global experts who signed the open letter, which was released on Thursday. In January, a WHO-selected group of scientists visited hospitals and research institutes in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was discovered, in search of information about the virus's origins.
The mission, however, has drawn criticism, with critics accusing the WHO of relying too heavily on politically tainted Chinese fieldwork and data. COVID-19 was circulating months before it was first recognized, according to team members. China was also unable to disclose crucial data that might prove COVID-19 was circulating months before it was first recognized. The WHO mission "did not have the authority, freedom, or requisite accesses to carry out a complete and unrestricted investigation" into all hypotheses about COVID-19's origins, according to the open letter.
"All possibilities remain on the table," Petrovsky said, "and I have yet to see a single piece of independent scientific evidence that rules any of them out." During a press conference to commemorate the end of the WHO's visit to Wuhan, mission head Peter Ben Embarek appeared to rule out the possibility that the virus had leaked from a Wuhan laboratory.