“We would like for everyone out there to separate, if they can, the politics of this issue from the science. This whole process is being poisoned by politics,” Dr Mike Ryan told a WHO briefing on Friday.
In a strongly worded address, Ryan said ongoing efforts to understand how the pandemic had gripped the world should take place in an “environment where science and health is the objective, and not blame and politics.”
He said the discourse in the media around who or what had sparked the global health crisis had been light on evidence and was “disturbing.”
Ryan did not explicitly refer to this week’s spat between WHO member states the US and China, but said that countries are “free to pursue their own particular theories of origin.”
Beijing hit out at Washington after US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he had asked intelligence officials to “redouble their efforts” in looking into the origins of the pandemic, including posing “questions for China.”
Biden said he had been given a report on the pandemic’s origins that considered the theory the virus had ‘escaped’ in a laboratory accident, although more work needed to be done before a conclusion could be reached.
The much-disputed theory that Covid-19 originated in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan was also touted by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, but the idea was vehemently rejected by Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday the Biden administration’s pursuit of the theory showed the US was “turning a blind eye to facts and science.”
“Their aim is to use the pandemic to pursue stigmatization and political manipulation to shift the blame,” he told a press conference.
Between January and February of this year, a team of 10 WHO experts travelled to China and Wuhan for a fact-finding mission to help determine the origins of the pandemic. In their report, published at the end of March, they said the theory claiming the virus emerged from a lab “was considered to be extremely unlikely.”