The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is assured that COVID-19 is natural in origin, and it is vital to establish the natural host for the virus, after the US president said he had seen evidence it originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, was answering a question on Friday about the claim made by President Donald Trump when he accused WHO of being a “public relations agency for China.”
The question was directed at WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who sidestepped Trump’s claims during the thrice-weekly press conference on the novel coronavirus.
Instead, Ryan said: “With regard to the origins of the virus in Wuhan – again and again to numerous scientists who looked at the sequences and looked at this virus, we are assured that this virus is natural in origin.”
“What is important is that we establish that natural host for this virus is,” said Ryan.
He said the primary purpose of doing that is to ensure that scientists understand the virus more.
“We understand the animal-human interface, and we understand how the animals-human species barrier was breached,” said Ryan, the WHO official seen as dealing with hard questions at press conferences.
“The purpose of understanding that is that we can put in place the necessary prevention and public health measures to prevent that happening again, anywhere.”
Ryan said that what the WHO is doing is offering support to studies to help determine such outcomes “which will help us determine the right steps are to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Trump last month said that the WHO is “China-centric,” asserting it had been a source of poor information for governments worldwide, particularly its opposition to countries closing their borders to China after the virus emerged there in December.
Many of Trump’s claims about COVID-19, from the course of the virus’ spread to its treatment, have faced widespread challenges and even ridicule from public health specialists and observers.