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China’s WHO Team Leader Acknowledges Political Pressure On Researching COVID-19 Origins

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The leader of the Chinese side of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) joint research team acknowledged Wednesday that scientists have faced global pressures in investigating the origins of COVID-19.

“Recently, some politicians and the media in the world insisted on politicizing the scientific issue of tracing the source of COVID-19, regardless of scientific facts, for their own personal gain, arbitrarily misinterpreting the scientific findings and reports of our joint team, which is a huge disrespect to the work of our scientists,” Dr. Liang Wannian, team leader of the Chinese side of the WHO-China joint expert team, told the Global Times.

Wannian’s comments come a week before the WHO research team is expected to release a 280-page report on the coronavirus.

The team, which is composed of 10 international experts who visited China in January and February, conducted field studies across Wuhan in an attempt to trace the origins virus that has now killed 2.6 million people globally.

So far, the experts have detailed some of their findings, which includes information that they believe the disease was transmitted naturally and that it is “very unlikely” that transmission came from a Chinese lab.

The researchers have since faced backlash from other members of the scientific community and politicians, who have accused the researchers of being too lenient on China and instead called for an independent investigation.

The team leader of the Chinese side of the WHO investigative team acknowledged political pressures in determining the origins of COVID-19. Here, a clinical support technician extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analyzed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Jane Barlow/Getty Images

Earlier this month, scientists from multiple U.S. and European universities published an open letter in The Wall Street Journal, calling for an extensive probe into whether a lab accident was the original cause of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Later, the Washington Post editorial board published an opinion piece in which it stated that the international scientific community must aggressively challenge China on the truth behind the “mysterious” origins of the virus.

“The WHO, a membership organization, lacks the powers to pry open closed doors in China, and there is not another good alternative,” the Post editorial board wrote on March 8. “As the 26 scientists point out in their letter, the team lacked the training and forensic skills required to investigate this possibility. They were under strong pressure from China to steer clear of the subject altogether.”

The WHO has previously come under fire for praising the Chinese government’s early response to the pandemic, despite reports by the Associated Press that behind the scenes top health officials were were frustrated by the country’s lack of cooperation.

On Wednesday, Wannian acknowledged that the WHO study is only a “good start” in determining the origins of the virus but that further research and analysis will be necessary.

“Where the novel coronavirus came from, how it infected people, how it spread to Wuhan—these questions still need scientists to continue their research. Through the joint efforts of the WHO-China joint expert team, the two sides reached some important consensus, which made a good start for the global origins-tracing work,” Wannian said.

The Liberty Buzz contacted the WHO for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

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