WHO researcher: Wuhan lab worker infected in bat cave 'likely hypothesis' for COVID-19 origin


Peter Ben Embarek of the WHO-China joint study team at press conference, Feb. 9, 2021. (Xinhua/Cheng Min via Getty Images)

A World Health Organization researcher said the notion of a Wuhan lab worker getting infected while taking samples in a bat cave and bringing back COVID-19 is a "likely hypothesis" for the origin of the pandemic — and that Chinese researchers tried quashing the lab-leak theory, the Washington Post reported.

What are the details?

Peter Ben Embarek — who led an investigation into the virus' beginnings with Chinese researchers — said in a documentary airing Thursday night on Danish television that his Chinese counterparts continually pushed back against the lab-leak theory, the paper said.

"In the beginning, they didn't want anything about the lab [in the report], because it was impossible, so there was no need to waste time on that," Ben Embarek said during the interview, the Post noted. "We insisted on including it because it was part of the whole issue about where the virus originated."

The WHO sent a 10-member investigative team to Wuhan in mid-January, and nearly a month later the team concluded it is "extremely unlikely" that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or a similar lab.

"The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population," Ben Embarek, an expert with the WHO food safety and animal diseases division, said at the time, the Associated Press reported.

But the Post said Ben Embarek told Danish reporters that a discussion of whether to include the lab-leak theory at all lasted until 48 hours before the investigation was over — and that finally his Chinese counterpart agreed to discuss the lab-leak theory in the report "on the condition we didn't recommend any specific studies to further that hypothesis."



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