Washington [US], June 24 (ANI): In a move that has thickened the plot surrounding the lab leak theory on COVID-19 origins, Dr Peter Daszak, the British member of the World Health Organization (WHO) mission in China's Wuhan, has been recused from the UN-backed Commission work on the origins of the pandemic.
Daszak, who is also the president of New-York based non-profit EcoHealth Alliance, had reportedly directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money to China's Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is now at the centre of renewed calls for a fresh probe of the origins of the coronavirus, reported New York Post.
Daszak's profile on the Lancet COVID-19 Commission has been updated to include the parenthetical quote "recused from Commission work on the origins of the pandemic."
In February this year, the WHO team had dismissed the theory of a 'lab leak' of the virus. Daszak said on Twitter that the decision to downplay the lab theory was a unanimous judgment among the WHO team's 17 members.
The WHO report determined that the possibility the virus came from a lab was "extremely unlikely," noting there was "no record" any lab had closely related viruses. The probe was criticised by the US, UK, and other governments over its limited access to "complete, original data and samples."
Last year, 27 leading scientists who appeared in The Lancet made a statement organised by Daszak, which condemned what it called "conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin" and proclaimed "solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China."
However, one of the 27 signatories, Peter Palese, who is a prominent New York City microbiologist said that "disturbing information" has led him to reverse course regarding his belief in the "natural origin" of COVID-19, reported New York Post.
Two months after the statement was published, Daszak emailed US top coronavirus adviser Dr Anthony Fauci thanking him for supporting the theory that the COVID-19 naturally jumped from animals to humans and did not leak out of the Wuhan lab.
Daszak stated that EcoHealth's work in China -- including at the Wuhan lab -- was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). He also denied that he or EcoHealth received money directly from the Chinese government.
The so-called "lab leak" theory, once dismissed by the mainstream media, has gained traction in recent weeks after a series of revelations. An explosive report by the Wall Street Journal revealed that three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care after they fell ill in November 2019, a month before Beijing reported the first patient with COVID-like symptoms.
According to New York Post, despite his position at the centre of the scientific response to the pandemic, Daszak has repeatedly declined to speak to reporters or lawmakers about EcoHealth, the initial WHO investigation, his relationship with Fauci, the Wuhan Institute of Virology or other issues.
Meanwhile, Fauci recently said that COVID-19 could be a lab-invented illness as acknowledged by scientists in February 2020.
Fauci said that he was open to the coronavirus lab leak theory all along, saying acknowledged COVID-19 "could possibly be an engineered virus" with the potential of an accidental leak from a lab but maintains that the most likely origin was through zoonotic transmission, reported Fox News. (ANI)