The international scientists dispatched to Communist China by the World Health Organization to find out where the virus came from said Wednesday the search has stalled and warned that the window of opportunity for solving the mystery is “closing fast.”
In a commentary published in the journal Nature, the WHO-recruited experts said the origins investigation is at “a critical juncture” requiring urgent collaboration but has instead come to a standstill.
The commentary called for more studies, after U.S. intelligence agencies delivered to President Biden a new assessment on the origins of Wuhan virus. The report, delivered Tuesday, didn’t come to any definitive conclusion, in part because of a lack of data from Communist China.
The authors of the commentary were all members of a WHO-led international team that worked jointly with Chinese scientists to probe the origins of the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2, which has caused more than 4.4 million deaths around the world.
The new studies are supposed to be part of a second phase of research that the team recommended in a report published in March, after the team’s month long trip to Communist China. Since then, team members have repeatedly urged that the studies be undertaken quickly. But progress has stalled, the team members wrote in the commentary.
The delay, they said, is due in part to continuing debates among the WHO and its member states over the two leading hypotheses for the pandemic’s origin: that the deadly virus either entered the human population and began spreading after escaping from a lab, or after jumping to humans from infected animals. That debate has made it more difficult to organize further scientific studies, said Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist and an author of the commentary.