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World Health Organization Decries Politicization of COVID-19 Origins and Urges Governments to Trust the Science

The World Health Organization on Thursday issued a lengthy statement criticizing the politicization of the investigations into the origins of COVID-19 and implored governments and political leaders to trust the scientific method.

Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

This has been a frustrating development in countries like the United States where millions of people are reluctant to get vaccinated against the coronavirus due to misleading and false messaging from conservative lawmakers and pundits, igniting a resurgence of the virus through the emergence of much more virulent variants that are causing unnecessary suffering and death.

“To move forward, WHO calls for all governments to depoliticize the situation and cooperate to accelerate the origins studies, and importantly to work together to develop a common framework for future emerging pathogens of pandemic potential. WHO’s priority is for scientists to build on the first phase of studies, implement the recommendations outlined in the March 2021 report and accelerate scientific efforts on all hypotheses. Searching for the origins of any novel pathogen is a difficult process, which is based on science, and takes collaboration, dedication, and time,” the WHO said.

“WHO reiterates that the search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is not and should not be an exercise in attributing blame, finger-pointing or political point-scoring. It is vitally important to know how the COVID-19 pandemic began, to set an example for establishing the origins of all future animal-human spillover events,” it continued. “Countries have a collective responsibility to work together in the true spirit of partnership and to ensure scientists and experts have the space they need to find the origins of the worst pandemic in a century. Building on what has already been learned, the next series of studies would include a further examination of the raw data from the earliest cases and sera from potential early cases in 2019. Access to data is critically important for evolving our understanding of science and should not be politicized in any way.”

The WHO also announced that it is initiating new studies into how SARS-COV-2 mutated to spread from animals to humans, which sparked the current global pandemic. Notably, the WHO has not yet determined whether the pathogen escaped from a lab or if its microevolution was a consequence of Darwinian natural selection.

“China and a number of other Member States have written to WHO regarding the basis for further studies of the SARS-CoV-2 ‘lab hypothesis.’ They have also suggested the origins study has been politicized, or that WHO has acted due to political pressure,” said the WHO.

“On review of the phase one study report, WHO determined that there was insufficient scientific evidence to rule any of the hypotheses out. Specifically, in order to address the ‘lab hypothesis,’ it is important to have access to all data and consider scientific best practices and look at the mechanisms WHO already has in place. WHO is only focused on science, providing solutions, and building solidarity,” it continued.

“Analyzing and improving lab safety and protocols in all laboratories around the world, including in China, is important for our collective biosafety and security,” the organization stressed in its conclusion. “Searching for the origins of a novel virus is an immensely difficult scientific task that takes time. WHO is committed to following the science, and we call on all governments to put differences aside and work together to provide all data and access required so that the next series of studies can be commenced as soon as possible.”

Read the WHO’s full statement here.



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