Fresh doubts cast over Covid origin as WHO admits errors in report

·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Fresh doubts have been cast over the origin of Covid-19 as the World Health Organisation WHO admitted it encountered “unintended errors” in its report.

A spokesperson for the organisation said mistakes in the joint report with China were due to “editing errors.”

In a remarkable admission made to the Washington Post the WHO said - contrary to its previous statements - the first family cluster of patients was not linked to the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan.

The organisation is also changing the virus sequence IDs associated with three of the 13 early patients listed in a chart in the report, the Post reported.

It did not, however, explain to the newspaper why a map in the annexes of the report appears to show the first case on one side of the Yangtze River, while the Wuhan government had announced last year that the first patient lived on the other side of the river, in Wuchang district.

But in an email sent to the newspaper by its spokesperson - they said the mistakes did not impact the data analysis process or conclusions of their investigation. It also said it will also be investigating other possible mistakes in the documents.

Watch: COVID-19 - WHO calls for more transparency from China about virus origins - as head says 'lab accidents happen'

The errors have cast further doubt on the reliability of the report and the thoroughness of the investigation.

It comes several months after a team of WHO-appointed scientists flew to Wuhan earlier this year to investigate the source of the pandemic. 

After spending 12 days there, which included a visit to the laboratory, the team concluded the lab-leak theory was “extremely unlikely”.

But many questioned their findings and argued that they had not taken the lab hypothesis seriously. 

Speaking on the revelation of the errors, Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said: “We need more explanation about what the source of the error and the information was.”

Prof Gostin, who also provides technical assistance to the WHO, added: “Who made the errors? Was it China, was it the team, was it WHO itself?”

“There’s no clarity, and this does feed into public distrust of the integrity and rigor of the origins investigation,” he told the Post.

While experts questions WHO, it seems the nations across the globe are urging China to be more “transparent.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference today that the UN health agency based in Geneva is “asking actually China to be transparent, open and cooperate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for at the early days of the pandemic.”

 “We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened,” he added.

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