Following reporting by Nature that the World Health Organization planned to abandon the second phase of its COVID-19 origins investigation and a quick rebuttal by WHO that it was still a go, AHF calls for the global health institution to continue its investigation and make its position unequivocally clear.
Nature reported on Tuesday that “WHO has quietly shelved the second phase of its much-anticipated scientific investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing ongoing challenges over attempts to conduct crucial studies in China.” The WHO’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove refuted that on Wednesday, stating, “…WHO has not abandoned studying the origins of Covid 19. We have not, and we will not.”
“Delaying or canceling the investigation into the origins of COVID-19 would be a catastrophic decision by the WHO and a huge detriment to global health security and future efforts to foster cooperation on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “How COVID-19 started is still a big question, with many credible experts supporting the hypothesis that a laboratory accident is more likely than a zoonotic event. We will continue raising our voices until the world gets the answers it deserves.”
A WHO team of experts released a phase one report in March 2021 that was supposed to lay the groundwork for phase two. Van Kerkhove said that WHO’s plan for phase two would shift to become more generalized, citing the creation of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens “to conduct an independent assessment of the origins of COVID-19, but also to work more broadly to establish a framework to understand the origins of any future epidemic and pandemic pathogen, and the origins in which it emerges,” according to France 24.
The back and forth by the WHO underscores the need for a new Global Public Health Convention – a revised framework that will uphold the tenets of transparency, accountability, and cooperation – to ensure all nations are protected from future health crises.