Search for the origin of the virus: WHO expert calls for more data from China

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Finding the origin of the virus
WHO expert calls for more data from China

“We need more data,” says the head of the WHO delegation, which is on the heels of the origin of the coronavirus. This request is made to the country that the researchers did not even want to allow entry for a long time – China. The researcher has a very specific collection of data in mind.

The head of the WHO mission to investigate the origin of the corona pandemic in Wuhan, China, Peter Ben Embarek, has complained about the lack of access to raw data. “We need more data” in order to find possible early corona cases, said Ben Embarek after his return from the Chinese metropolis. He has therefore asked for more data and hopes to get them.

The US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, had previously asked Beijing to disclose all data about the “first days of the corona outbreak”. Washington has “serious concerns” about the way the Wuhan investigation has gone.

The task of the international WHO expert group was to get to the bottom of the origins of the pandemic. They had little time for this, as they initially had to be quarantined for 14 days after arriving in Wuhan and their arrival was delayed by a few days due to a lack of permits from the Chinese side. In his team there is a mixture of frustration and the “realistic” assessment of what is “feasible in what time frame,” said Ben Embarek. After their investigation, the experts continue to assume that the novel coronavirus was transmitted from bats to humans via another animal as an intermediate host. But when and where exactly this could have happened, according to her information, could not be clarified.

Only 92 out of 72,000 cases examined

Beijing had initially denied an independent international investigation into the origin of the virus, which should help in the fight against this and upcoming pandemics. The government only approved the WHO mission a year late, but it remained politically sensitive. Beijing rejects any responsibility for the pandemic and is also bringing other spreading possibilities into play.

His team would have liked to examine the raw data on previous illnesses such as pneumonia, flu and fever, which may already have been Covid-19, said Ben Embarek. There are 72,000 cases between October and December, of which Chinese experts only examined 92 retrospectively for the virus. These were all negative.

Ben Embarek’s British colleague John Watson, however, praised the willingness of the Chinese colleagues to report in detail about their work and methods. Another expert, Peter Daszak, had previously dismissed reports of loud disagreements about access to the data. Despite the significantly belated investigation in Wuhan, there is still “a lot to learn, a lot to discover,” said Ben Embarek. Even in the words of his colleague Watson, it is still possible to learn significantly more than before about the early stages of the pandemic. A full explanation can no longer be expected, he said.

The reactions of the USA also show how delicate the WHO mission is. Security Advisor Sullivan has called for an “independent” WHO report without interference or “changes” in expert opinions by the Chinese government. Sullivan recalled that US President Joe Biden had reversed the US withdrawal from the WHO. It is therefore all the more important to protect the “credibility” of the World Health Organization.

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