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WHO experts: "Window is closing" on study into origins of COVID-19

In an essay in the journal Nature, experts studying the origins of COVID-19 for the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the study has stalled and that the "window of opportunity" is closing to trace the virus' origins.

Why it matters: According to the scientists,"any [further] delay will render some of the studies biologically impossible," hampering understanding of the origins of COVID-19.

Driving the news: The Chinese government rejected the WHO's follow-up investigation as recently as July and has impeded the investigation, according to the report.

  • According to the report, China "was and is still reluctant to share raw data" with the investigative team.

What they're saying: "[The] window is rapidly closing on the biological feasibility of conducting the critical trace-back of people and animals inside and outside China. SARS-CoV-2 antibodies wane, so collecting further samples and testing people who might have been exposed before December 2019 will yield diminishing returns," according to the report in Nature.

  • The essay called for the "scientific community and country leaders to join forces to expedite the phase 2 studies detailed here, while there is still time."

Of note: The Biden administration has conducted its own investigation into COVID-19's origins, "including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident."

  • A White House official on Wednesday acknowledged receipt of the findings of that study, and said that an "unclassified summary of key judgments" would be made public "soon."
  • Nearly two dozen AAPI civil rights groups last week warned the administration that such a study "will put our communities at risk" and legitimizes the "lab leak" conspiracy theory.
  • Thousands of anti-Asian hate incidents have been reported since March 2020, nearly half including anti-Chinese or anti-immigrant rhetoric, according to the organization Stop AAPI Hate.

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