A team of experts from the World Health Organization studying the causes of the pandemic visited a research center in Wuhan, China on Wednesday that has been the subject of several unsubstantiated theories about the coronavirus.
WHO scientists met with staff at the center, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses a state-of-the-art laboratory known for its research on coronaviruses.
The institute came under scrutiny last year when the Trump administration advocated the unsubstantiated theory that the virus may have leaked from a government-run laboratory in China. But many high-ranking American officials have privately said that evidence suggesting a laboratory accident is primarily circumstantial.
Most scientists agree that the coronavirus most likely occurred in nature and spread from animals to humans. Peter Daszak, one of the experts on the WHO team, described the conversation on Wednesday at the Wuhan Institute as open. “Important questions asked and answered,” he wrote on Twitter, without giving details.
One of the people the WHO team met was Shi Zhengli, known as China’s “bat woman” for her study of coronaviruses found in bats. In June, Dr. Shi first voiced fears that the virus may have leaked from the lab, according to an interview with Scientific American. Later checks showed that none of the gene sequences matched the viruses examined by the staff.
Separately, China announced on Wednesday that it would provide 10 million Covid-19 vaccines to Covax, a global body promoting equitable access to coronavirus vaccinations.
The decision is “another important step China has taken to promote equitable distribution of vaccines,” said Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesman.
He also said the World Health Organization has started reviewing emergency vaccine approval. It was unclear what vaccines Mr. Wang was referring to. Two vaccines – manufactured by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm – have been approved for use in China.