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The WHO changes its mind to recommend further investigation into the origins of coronaviruses in China. China insists the lab leak theory is a lie.

The World Health Organization has reversed its stance on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and is now recommending further investigation into whether it was caused by an accident at a lab in China.

Coming more than two years after the virus was first detected in Wuhan, and after at least 6.3 million deaths worldwide, the move could surprise critics who have accused the agency of being too quick to dismiss or downplay the lab leak theory that has Chinese officials on the defensive, as reported by The Associated Press.

Just last year, the WHO said it was “extremely unlikely” that COVID originated in a laboratory, and more likely that it jumped to humans from an animal like a bat. In March 2021, the WHO released a report on the origins of COVID-19 following a highly choreographed visit by international scientists to China.

Now, in a report released on Thursday, the WHO expert panel said “key pieces of data” to explain how the pandemic started were still missing. The scientists said the group would “remain open to all scientific evidence that becomes available in the future to allow full testing of all reasonable hypotheses”.

Jean-Claude Manuguerra, co-chair of the 27-member international advisory group, acknowledged that some scientists might be “allergic” to investigating the lab leak theory, but said they needed to be “open enough” of mind” to examine this.

Associated Press investigations found that some senior WHO officials were frustrated with China during the initial outbreak, even as the WHO praised Chinese President Xi Jinping. They were also upset with how China has sought to suppress research into the origins of COVI9.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sent two letters to senior Chinese government officials in February requesting information, including details about the first human cases of COVID-19 in the city of Wuhan. It is not known whether the Chinese responded.

Experts said no studies had been provided to the WHO to assess the possibility that COVID-19 resulted from a laboratory leak.

Read also: COVID patients with weakened immune systems should receive priority care to prevent the emergence of new variants, experts say

China responded on Friday by calling the lab leak theory a politically motivated lie, the AP reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also dismissed accusations that China had not fully cooperated with investigators, saying it welcomed a scientific investigation but rejected any political manipulation.

Zhao also called for an investigation into “highly suspicious labs such as Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina” in the United States, where China has suggested, without evidence, that the United States was developing the coronavirus as a weapon. organic.

The head of the World Health Organization has called on China to rethink its strategy to eliminate Covid-19 cases in the country, in a rare challenge to a member state’s national Covid policies. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The WHO development comes as COVID cases are spreading fastest in three key hot-weather tourist destinations in the United States, Miami-Dade County in Florida, Honolulu County in Hawaii and San Juan in Puerto Rico, currently averaging at least 85 new cases per day per 100,000 people and positivity rates exceed 20%, The New York Times reported, citing data from its own database. This compares to an average of 34 new cases for the entire United States per 100,000 population and a positivity rate of 13% and is another sign that the pandemic is not over yet.

Cases in the United States are averaging 109,875 a day, unchanged from two weeks ago, according to the newspaper’s tracker. The country is recording an average of 29,321 hospitalizations per day, up 11% from two weeks ago. The daily death toll fell to an average of 344, down 4% from two weeks ago, but still an undesirably high number.

The Biden administration is lifting its requirement that international air travelers to the United States take a COVID test within a day before boarding their flights, easing one of the last remaining government mandates to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to the PA.

In New York, Mayor Eric Adams is ending a face mask mandate for children ages 2 to 4 starting Monday, according to a statement from his office.

“I’ve always said science would guide us out of the pandemic, and because we’ve been following the data, which shows cases are steadily declining, we’ve pushed back the latest surge of COVID-19,” Adams said in the communicated. . “New Yorkers stepped up when we needed them most and put us on the path to reducing risk.”

The move comes with just two weeks left in the public school year before summer vacation.

Coronavirus update: MarketWatch’s Daily Roundup organizes and reports all the latest developments each day of the week since the start of the coronavirus pandemic

Other COVID-19 news you should know:

• Australia’s leading medical body is calling on new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to reinvigorate attention on COVID, warning that this winter will be “the worst ever” for the country’s health system, the Guardian reported. The Australian Medical Association said the country was also facing a deadly flu season and the hospital system was struggling to cope due to labor shortages. The association’s president, Dr Omar Khorshid, said next Friday’s meeting of state and territory leaders must come up with a new COVID strategy to ease the burden during the winter, after the issue was ignored for The electoral campaign.

• Japan eased its borders for foreign tourists on Friday and started accepting visa applications, but only for those on guided package tours who are willing to follow masking and other virus measures as the country is cautiously trying to balance trade and infection worries, the AP reported.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the scientific understanding of its transmission and prevention has evolved. The WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez explains which strategies have worked to stem the spread of the virus and which are outdated in 2022. Illustration: Adele Morgan

• As COVID restrictions are eased and case numbers recede to more manageable levels, other viruses are resurfacing in new and unusual ways, CNBC reported. Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Adenovirus, Tuberculosis and Monkeypox are among a number of viruses that have increased and exhibited strange behaviors in recent months. Experts now say COVID restrictions may have reduced exposure – and reduced immunity – to these diseases.

See now: CDC issues monkeypox alert: what to know about travel, how it spreads

• The daily number of COVID cases in India has nearly doubled in a week, and authorities are urging people to get vaccinated and wear face masks in public, Bloomberg News reported. India added 7,240 cases on Thursday, the most in a single day in more than three months. But, for now, hospitalizations remain low and 69% of India’s 1.4 billion people have received at least two injections, although so far only 3% have received a booster dose, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 534.2 million on Friday, while the death toll topped 6.3 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The United States leads the world with 85.3 million cases and 1,010,805 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker shows that 221.6 million people living in the United States are fully vaccinated, or 66.7% of the total population. But only 104.2 million had a first booster, or 47% of the vaccinated population.

Only 15.2 million people aged 50 and over eligible for a second booster had one, or 24.1% of those who had a first booster.

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Post expires at 11:49pm on Tuesday June 21st, 2022