WHO scientist backs COVID fact-finding mission to China
The world’s first pandemic in a century may be effectively over, but families of the nearly 7 million victims are no closer to understanding the origin of the deadly novel Coronavirus.
Whether it naturally sprang from animals at a Chinese wet market or was a deliberately engineered virus that leaked from a lab remains to this day a question shrouded in mystery, providing fertile ground for conspiracy theories.
In a surprise move, the new chief scientist at the World Health Organization backed a fact-finding mission to China despite his own doubts that COVID-19 escaped from an institute for virology in Wuhan.
The trained medical doctor, who specialized in infectious diseases, came to the WHO after serving as the director of a nearly century-old charity called Wellcome Trust, which funds health research.
Farrar has himself come under fire for his participation in a February 2020 conference call with Anthony Fauci, then the top U.S. health official in the fight against COVID. Republican lawmakers claim there was a conspiracy in parts of the government to deflect suspicion from a lab leak theory.
The WHO could not be reached by Fortune for comment.
In the FT interview, Farrar said would be in favor of a fresh investigation into the origin of a microscopic virus that wreaked untold economic damage, brought the health system to the brink of collapse and cost millions of lives around the world.
Farrar raised only one key precondition: “a willingness to share all information, and […] done in a way that will actually shed light on it.” This was likely a reference to the role China has played thus far.
WHO criticized for being ‘China’s coronavirus accomplice’
The WHO previously dispatched a team to investigate the origins, but the results published in early 2021 were tainted in the eyes of many as Beijing insisted in a joint effort that undermined confidence. Several western governments led by the Biden administration expressed their “shared concerns” over the conclusions.
“The international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples,” a joint statement said at the time.
The study only served to confirm criticisms repeatedly leveled at the United Nations public health body and its top official, Tedros Ghebreyesus, that it bent over backwards to accommodate the Chinese regime. International relations journal Foreign Policy went so far as to accuse the WHO of becoming “China’s coronavirus accomplice.”
The lab leak theory, originally deemed by some to be culturally racist, has enjoyed a renaissance since a report from the U.S. energy department, leaked in February to the Wall Street Journal, said a leak was the most likely cause. The U.S. energy department oversees a network of U.S. labs.
The issue has now taken center stage in Washington. In testimony presented before Congress last month, the lead author on a controversial “Proximal Origin” study rejected allegations from Republican lawmakers that he was unduly influenced by either Fauci or Farrar, then still the director of Wellcome Trust.
The Financial Times did not question the new WHO chief scientist on his own personal role in the shaping of public policy during the pandemic, nor did it ask him whether he might have sought to control the narrative over the origin.
Farrar for his part argued evidence collected over the past three years suggests it was “much more likely” the virus naturally jumped from animal to human.
“We should get to the bottom of it,” Farrar told the paper, only to then add: “I’m not sure we will.”