NEW DELHI: After WHO Director-General Teodros Ghebreyesus effectively revived the Covid-19 lab-leak theory by saying that all hypotheses regarding the origin of the virus remained on the table, India Thursday backed his comments saying it was pertinent to note that the WHO chief had raised the issue of delays and difficulties in accessing raw data for a team which conducted a global study on the issue.
Released earlier this week, the China-WHO global study itself seemed to have given a clean chit to China by declaring that the lab-leak theory seemed unlikely and that the virus was probably passed on to humans from bats via an intermediary animal. Ghebreyesus though said a day later that no theory had been ruled out by WHO.
“We fully support the Director General’s expectation that future collaborative studies will include more timely and comprehensive data sharing. In this connection, we also welcome his readiness to deploy additional missions,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
The government though also welcomed the report saying it represented an important first step in establishing the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It has listed four pathways concerning the emergence of the disease but has stressed the need for next-phase studies across the region. The report also stresses the need for further data and studies to reach robust conclusions,” said the spokesperson.
The government also joined other stakeholders in voicing their expectations “that follow up to the WHO report or further studies, including on an understanding of the earliest human cases and clusters by the WHO on this critical issue, will receive the fullest cooperation of all concerned.”
The Chinese foreign ministry had said at a press briefing Wednesday that members of the group that conducted the study “unanimously agreed” that the lab leak allegation was “extremely unlikely” and that this was an important scientific conclusion made clear in the joint study report released on Tuesday.
However, an AFP report quoted Tedros as saying Wednesday that in his discussions with the group, members had “expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data”.
He called for “timely and comprehensive data sharing” in future investigations. Tedros also said that although the experts concluded the laboratory leak was the “least likely” hypotheses, this theory needed to be probed further.
“I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. This requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” said Tedros.



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