A recent interview with the chief of an international mission which investigated the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan earlier this year has revealed the team was under intense pressure from Chinese authorities to downplay the possibility of the virus escaping from a local lab. In light of these developments, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the world’s largest HIV/AIDS care provider globally, calls on the international community to continue demanding transparency from China, including full access to raw clinical data and independent interviews with whistleblowers and early COVID-19 patients, with guarantees that they will not face retaliation for speaking up.
According to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, the World Health Organization (WHO) expert leading the mission, Dr. Peter Ben Embarek told Danish documentary film makers that initially Chinese counterparts refused to include any mention of the lab leak hypothesis in the investigative report. Eventually they relented, but only on the condition that the hypothesis be described as very unlikely. The latest revelation marks a dramatic departure from WHO’s prior reluctance to openly criticize China or acknowledge that the investigation was not sufficiently independent to yield credible results.
“Embarek has said before that politics was always in the room during discussions about the investigative report. In fact, by some accounts, the international scientists on the team were outnumbered by up to 60 Chinese scientists and public health figures – it certainly appears China had a stake in molding the report to its purposes by de-emphasizing the possibility of a lab accident,” said Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Executive Director of the AHF Global Public Health Institute at the University of Miami. “What those purposes are is unknown, but the more China resists calls for transparency on the origins of COVID-19, the more people everywhere will wonder if something went wrong, perhaps there was an accident, or a human error of some kind. Whatever may have caused or contributed to the emergence of COVID-19 – the world must know the truth, so that we can prevent another public health disaster like this. Countries should continue pressuring China to be more transparent and cooperate with the COVID-19 origins investigation.”
AHF has been consistently calling for a new, more transparent and independent investigation as early as February 2021, while the WHO team was still in Wuhan. From the outset it became clear that the veracity of the investigation would be in doubt due to conflicts of interest among some of the team members and China’s heavy-handed oversight of the Wuhan mission. Follow-up statements were issued on March 29 and May 31 highlighting major gaps in the investigation.
The documentary featuring the interview with Dr. Embarek and some footage he shot on his phone while in Wuhan is titled “The Virus Mystery”; it premiered on Danish TV2 channel this Thursday.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.5 million clients in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare