The World Health Organization’s (WHO) investigation into the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus must be “robust, transparent, and independent,” and needs to “explore all possible theories,” the UK government said on Monday.
The remarks came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman was asked about a report published by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Sunday citing unnamed officials saying that a U.S. intelligence report revealed three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care a month before the Chinese regime reported the first cases of what became known as COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.
A fact sheet released by the U.S. State Department on Jan. 15 said that several researchers at the institute fell ill with symptoms similar to those caused by the CCP virus in autumn 2019, but did not mention the number of researchers and the exact time when they fell ill.
When asked to comment on the WSJ report on Monday, Johnson’s spokesman said: “The WHO investigation into the origins of the virus is ongoing and we have been clear throughout that it must be robust, transparent, and independent.
“The investigation needs to explore all possible theories on how COVID-19 made that jump from animals to humans and how it spread and that’s vital to ensure we learn lessons from this crisis and prevent another global pandemic,” he added.
Asked whether the report suggested the possibility of a leak from a lab, the spokesman said, “We want to let the WHO investigation run thoroughly and be carried out properly and then make a judgment from that.”
A report from the WHO published in March said that the CCP virus likely spread to people via an unknown animal, but WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the mission to study the origins of the virus did not adequately analyze other theories.
“As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table … We have not yet found the source of the virus,” Ghebreyesus said.
The report’s conclusion was largely based on the WHO’s investigative efforts in January and February this year. Critics noted that the Chinese communist regime had a significant role in their investigation and accused them of engaging in a cover-up.
Earlier this month, U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he is now “not convinced” that the virus developed naturally, and called for a deeper probe into its origins.
On the same day, when asked by a doctor during a Senate hearing about whether it’s possible that the virus arose from a lab accident in Wuhan, Fauci responded, “That possibility certainly exists.”
“I am totally in favor of a full investigation of whether that could have happened,” he said.
Days later, PolitiFact quietly retracted a September 2020 fact check that labeled a Hong Kong virologist’s claim that the virus originated in a lab as inaccurate and a “debunked conspiracy theory.”
Yuan Zhiming, director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, refuted the WSJ report on Monday, calling it “a complete lie,” according to Chinese state-run media Global Times.
When asked about the report by Bloomberg on Monday, the spokesman for the Chinese foreign affairs ministry Zhao Lijian said the Wuhan institute had already made a statement on March 23 saying it had not been in contact with the CCP virus, and that no staff or researcher had been infected with the virus so far.
Jack Phillips, Ivan Pentchoukov, and Isabel van Brugen contributed to this report.
This report has been updated with the responses from the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory director and spokesman for the Chinese foreign affairs ministry.