WHO has not abandoned COVID-19 origin investigation

Two years after the WHO’s visit to China to investigate the origin of COVID-19, the WHO has “abandoned” the second phase of the investigation

Published - February 18, 2023 08:15 pm IST

Photo used for representation purpose only.

Photo used for representation purpose only.

On February 14, Nature News reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) has “shelved the second phase” of COVID-19 origin investigation “citing ongoing challenges over attempts to conduct crucial studies in China”.

Two years after the WHO’s visit to China to investigate the origin of COVID-19, the WHO has “abandoned” the second phase of the investigation, it said and quoted WHO’s Technical Lead for COVID-19, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove saying that “there is no phase two”. Nature News went on to say that though “WHO planned for work to be done in phases, the plan has changed”. 

A day later, Dr. Kerkhove in a tweet refuted the news about the WHO abandoning COVID-19 origin investigation. She said: “This is not true. We have never, nor will we ever abandon this. We have said this loudly, clearly, repeatedly. We will continue to say this.” In another tweet on February 15, Dr. Kerkhove said: “The Nature piece is incorrect. We’ve said many times publicly... since early 2021 that understanding the origins is critically important... We’ve asked Nature for a correction.”

Apparently, there has been a confusion about the status of phase two of the COVID-19 origin investigation, and not that the WHO has abandoned plans for continuing its investigation into the origin of COVID-19. Phase two was initially supposed to be a “continuation of January 2021 mission to Wuhan, which was in a sense seen as phase one”, but the WHO “updated” its plans and the phase two became SAGO (Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens)”. 

In a press briefing on February 15, Dr. Kerkhove clarified that the WHO was “building on what was done in phase one” and the SAGO as a permanent Strategic Advisory Group was to study the origins of COVID-19 and “broadly to establish a framework to understand the frameworks of any future epidemic and pandemic and the pathogens which emerge”.

In essence, the WHO had only dropped the idea of continuing COVID-19 origin investigation in the form of phases as further investigation will be taken up by the SAGO. That message was essentially what Dr. Kerkhove had tried conveying to Nature News when she said that there is “no phase two” and that the plan to work in phases had changed. 

“We just need to make sure that it is very clear that we have not abandoned any plans. We have not stopped any work. We will not stop until we understand the origins of this,” she reiterated in the press briefing.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.