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“Our last chance to find Covid origin”: WHO on its new advisory group

WHO started the request for applications last August (File)

Geneva:

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that its newly formed advisory group on dangerous pathogens could be “our last chance” to determine the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and urged China to provide data from early cases. did. did.

The first human cases of COVID-19 were reported in December 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. China has repeatedly dismissed theories that the virus leaked from one of its laboratories and said no more visits were needed.

A WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around Wuhan with Chinese scientists earlier this year, and said in a joint report in March that the virus was possibly transmitted from bats to humans via another animal , but further research was required.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the investigation was hampered by a lack of raw data relating to the first days of the outbreak and called for a laboratory audit.

The WHO on Wednesday named 26 proposed members of its Scientific Advisory Group on the Origin of Novel Pathogens (SAGOs). These include Marion Koopman, Thea Fischer, Hung Nguyen and Chinese animal health expert Yang Yungui, who participated in the joint investigation in Wuhan.

Dozens of studies needed

Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical chief on COVID-19, expressed hope that there would be a WHO-led international mission to China that would involve the country’s cooperation.

She told a news conference that “more than three dozen recommended studies” still need to be done to determine how the virus passed from animal species to humans.

Van Kerkhove said Chinese testing for antibodies in Wuhan residents in 2019 would be “absolutely important” to understand the origins of the virus.

The WHO said in an editorial in the journal Science that a detailed investigation of the earliest known and suspected cases in China prior to December 2019 was still needed, including analysis of blood samples collected in Wuhan from 2019 and hospital and mortality data. Includes retrospective analysis. Search is included. For the earlier cases.
It added that the focus should be on laboratories in the region where the first reports of human infections occurred in Wuhan, as sufficient evidence is needed to rule out an accident.

WHO’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan said the new panel could be the last chance to establish the origins of SARS-CoV-2, “a virus that has brought our entire world to a halt”.

WHO wanted to “take a step back, create an environment where we can look at scientific issues again”, he said. “This is our best chance, and it may be our last chance to understand the origins of this virus.”

China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Chen Xu, told a separate news conference that the findings of the joint study were “quite clear”, adding that international teams have already been sent to China twice, adding that “It’s time for other teams”. To send to. Place.”

“I believe that if we are to continue scientific research, I think it should be a joint effort based on science, not by intelligence agencies,” Chen said. “So if we’re going to talk about anything, we’re doing all business with the SAGO framework”.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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