The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday it will only give reporters 30 minutes to review its highly anticipated report on the origins of COVID-19 before taking questions on the matter.
“Media are invited to attend a virtual press conference where the international experts will discuss the report and answer questions,” the WHO said in a press release Monday. “A link to the report will be available and sent to global media half an hour before the press briefing.”
The report is 123 pages, according to The Washington Post.
The briefing will be held at 10:00 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, the WHO said.
The WHO’s report is expected to conclude that it is “highly unlikely” that COVID-19 could have accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a draft copy of the report from a Geneva-based diplomat.
The WHO’s investigation into the origins of the pandemic in China has been mired in transparency issues and allegations of conflicts of interest.
The Chinese government has maintained strict control over all research into the pandemic’s origins since the outbreak, according to the AP. China also had veto power over the members of the WHO panel that were allowed to probe the virus’s origin in early 2021.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on March 19 that Chinese experts had received the English version of the WHO report two days prior and said its release “depends on discussions between Chinese & international experts.”
Chinese experts received English version of the WHO report on Mar. 17. Whether the report will be released next week depends on discussions between Chinese & international experts. Origin-tracing is a scientific issue that needs to be studied by the science community. pic.twitter.com/o3619f58zT
— Spokesperson发言人办公室 (@MFA_China) March 19, 2021
The only U.S. member of the team, Dr. Peter Daszak, worked closely with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the organization at the center of the lab leak theory, for years prior to the start of the pandemic. Daszak’s nonprofit group, EcoHealth Alliance, routed $600,000 in U.S. taxpayer funds to the WIV in the form of subgrants as part of a project to study bat-based coronaviruses between 2014 and 2019.
Daszak told “60 Minutes” on Sunday that the WHO team had no choice but to take the scientists from the WIV at their word that their lab had no connection to the initial outbreak. He said that it wasn’t the WHO’s job to determine whether the Chinese government covered up details about the pandemic’s origins.
The WHO’s report will be released amid a growing chorus of scientists and government officials who have spoken out against the Chinese government’s lack of transparency and the legitimacy of the lab leak theory.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in February that President Joe Biden’s administration had “deep concerns” about the WHO’s investigation into the pandemic’s origins.
And Dr. Robert Redfield, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently told CNN that he believes COVID-19 originated from a Chinese lab.
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