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'Truly' independent probe needed as WHO was focused on 'pleasing' Beijing: Ex-US official on COVID-19 origins study

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Washington | April 20, 2021 8:13:59 PM IST
The recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the origin of coronavirus has shown that the world health body was more focused on pleasing Beijing, said a former US National Security Council's senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense, adding that a "truly" independent investigation is needed to prevent the next pandemic.

In an opinion piece in National Interest, Anthony Ruggiero, who is now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called for new leadership at WHO and said that the current director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus helped to create this situation by not "dealing more forcefully with Beijing early on".

Last month, the WHO released a long-awaited joint report on the origins of COVID-19. The report pointed to the transmission from bats to another animal and subsequently to humans as the most likely way the pandemic began.

However, over a dozen countries raised concerns over the report, arguing that the WHO team was "significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples."

Beijing essentially dictated the conclusions to the WHO when its officials visited China in January and February, said Ruggiero.

"At a press conference on February 9 in Beijing at the conclusion of the trip, the WHO and China were on the same page labelling the lab-origin theory as "extremely unlikely" while amplifying the CCP's claims that the pandemic started outside China. Two days later in Geneva, the WHO director-general said all hypotheses would be investigated. Nonetheless, the final report stuck with Beijing's preferred line against the lab-origin theory," he wrote.

He argued that Beijing will need to be more transparent and consent to a forensic investigation of the Wuhan lab.

"Continued pressure on the WHO could lead to a real investigation, but the Biden administration may need to use the United Nations Security Council to authorise the investigation. Even if China vetoes the effort, we will be no worse off," he said.

China has been criticised widely across the world for its alleged role in the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected over 142 million people across the world. More than 3.04 million people have lost their lives to the virus, as per Johns Hopkins University.

"The WHO needs new leadership. Tedros helped to create this situation by not dealing more forcefully with Beijing early on. The Biden administration should work with like-minded countries to choose a new candidate for the WHO director-general in elections next year," he said.

"The only thing the WHO report accomplishes is showing how the organisation was focused on pleasing Beijing. This is an important test for Biden--Xi Jinping will triumph if the WHO report stands. Even worse, our effort to find the origin of the pandemic is inextricably connected to our overriding public-health mission: preventing the next outbreak of a globally impoverishing, deadly disease," he added. (ANI)

 
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