WHO proposes experts to advise on virus origins

GENEVA — The World Health Organization released a proposed list of 25 experts to advise it on the next steps in searching for the origins of the coronavirus after its earlier efforts were slammed for accommodating China, where the first human cases were detected in late 2019.

In a statement on Wednesday, the U.N. health agency says its proposed experts — including some who were on the original team that went to Wuhan to probe the origins of COVID-19 — would be subject to a two-week public consultation period. Among the suggested members of the new team are Marion Koopmans of the Netherlands and Thea Fischer of Denmark, who were on the WHO team that visited China in February. In a recent commentary, Koopmans, Fischer and others said the search for the origins of COVID-19 had “stalled” and Chinese officials were still refusing to hand over some raw data.

READ MORE: WHO chief says it was ‘premature’ to rule out COVID lab leak

After the WHO-led team completed its China visit, the experts released a report concluding the possibility the coronavirus leaked from a Wuhan lab was “extremely unlikely,” prompting criticism from outside scientists that the theory had not been properly vetted. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later acknowledged it had been “premature” to dismiss the lab theory.

Numerous health experts and scientists have called for an independent investigation to be conducted beyond WHO, pointing out the agency has no authority to compel countries, including China, to cooperate. China has said it welcomes further investigations of the coronavirus’ origins, but in other countries. A recent review of U.S. intelligence ordered by President Joe Biden found inconclusive evidence whether the coronavirus originated in a laboratory.