COVID-19: “All hypotheses remain on the table” in search of the source of the virus, according to the WHO | World news
The head of the World Health Organization says that “all hypotheses remain on the table” in the search for the origin of COVID-19.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said that a WHO team tracing the source of the virus had encountered problems accessing the raw data and called for further studies as the assessment so far has not has not been sufficiently thorough.
“We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and not overlook anything as we are doing,” he added.
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Following the publication of a first report by the WHO team, the UK joined with other countries in expressing “shared concerns” about delays and other problems encountered during the study. experts in China.
Beijing has previously been accused of cover-up in its initial response to the COVID outbreak.
Meanwhile, delays in the arrival of the WHO team in China earlier this year have been blamed by officials in the country on a “misunderstanding”.
And a member of the WHO team in February accused China of refusing to release key data.
Earlier, Sky News revealed that experts believe the most likely origin of COVID-19 is the transmission from a bat to humans via an unidentified intermediate animal species.
Scientists have concluded that a lab leak is the least likely hypothesis, after visiting multiple facilities.
Dr Tedros said “the role of animal markets is still unclear”.
But he added that the WHO team had confirmed that there was “widespread SARS-CoV-2 contamination in the Huanan market in Wuhan”.
The source of this contamination, however, could not be determined.
He said further research could include a “comprehensive analysis of trade in animals and products in markets across Wuhan, in particular those linked to early human cases “.
Farmers, suppliers and their contacts should be interviewed, he added, echoing a request from his team, who also addressed the possibility that the virus was introduced into humans through the chain. food.
A team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, the United States and Vietnam attended visited China in January, working there with experts for four weeks.
The results published on Tuesday are called “initial studies”.
Looking at the available data, the report suggests that there was an unrecognized transmission in December 2019, and possibly earlier.
He adds that the first detected case started showing symptoms on December 8, 2019.
But to go further, the team needs “full access to data, including biological samples from at least September 2019,” said Dr Tedros.
He said the report was a “very important start” but not the end.
“Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so that we can collectively take action to reduce the risk of it happening again,” he added.
“No research trip can provide all the answers.
“It is clear that we need more research in a range of areas, which will require further field visits.”
In a joint statement, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, Slovenia, United Kingdom and the United States has said it remains “firm” in its commitment to work with the WHO to uncover the origins of COVID-19.
They called on all WHO members to renew their commitment to “access, transparency and punctuality” when investigating the origins of viruses.
The joint statement said: “WHO’s mission is essential to advancing global health and health security, and we fully support its experts and staff and recognize their tireless work to end the COVID-19 pandemic. , including understanding how the pandemic started and spread.
“With such an important mandate, it is equally essential that we express our common concerns that the international expert study into the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been significantly delayed and has not been accessed. to complete and original data and samples.
“Science missions like these should be able to do their job under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and conclusions.
“We share these concerns not only for the benefit of learning all we can about the origins of this pandemic, but also to pave the way for a timely, transparent and evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well. than for the next health crises. “