WHO tackles U.S. Secretary Pompeo on coronavirus origin

Mike Pompeo

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Mike Pompeo: Tackled by WHO on coronavirus origin

The World Health Organisation said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was being speculative alleging that a Chinese laboratory based in Wuhan unleashed coronavirus on the world.

WHO called for a science-based inquiry.

Pompeo said on Sunday there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the virus emerged from the Wuhan lab.

He however did not dispute U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that it was not man-made.

Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, told an online press conference from Geneva:

“We have not received any data-specific evidence from the U.S. government relating to the purported origin of the virus. So from our perspective, this remains speculative.”

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As an “evidence-based organisation”, Ryan said, the WHO was keen to receive any information on the origin of the virus, as this was “exceptionally important” for its future control.

“So if that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared,” he said.

Scientists have advised the WHO that genome sequencing shows the virus to be of “natural origin”.

Ryan said science, not politics, should be at the heart of exchanges with Chinese scientists on the issue, warning against projecting an “aggressive investigation of wrongdoing”.

The virus is believed to have originated in bats and jumped to humans via another species.

Dr Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO specialist in viruses that make such jumps, said it was important to determine this intermediate host.

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