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New Committee for WHO

The World Health Organization is to announce a new committee to investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the New York Times reports.

Previously, a WHO-led group issued a report that concluded that SARS-CoV-2 most likely arose in bats and was transmitted to people via another as-yet unknown animal. It further said the lab-leak theory was "extremely unlikely." That report, which was based in part on a WHO team visit to Wuhan, China, drew criticism from scientists and governments alike, as the investigators were unable to act independently and did not have full data access. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, later said it was premature of the agency to rule out the lab-leak theory and called on China to be more transparent.

The new investigative committee, dubbed the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, is to also look beyond SARS-CoV-2 at other emerging pathogens, the Times notes, adding that this may give it some protection from "political squabbling." The panel is to include lab security and biosafety specialists in addition to virologists and geneticists.

But Council on Foreign Relations' David Fidler tells the Times that the group still may not be able to persuade China to provide it with the data it needs.