The last chance to track COVID-19 Origin; WHO forms a new panel

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that its newly formed advisory group may be the last chance to find the origins of the SARS-COV-2 virus.

Last day, WHO named the 26 proposed members of its Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO). The task force includes Ms. Marion Koopmans, Ms. Thea Fischer, Mr. Hung Nguyen and Chinese animal health expert Mr. Yang Yungui, who took part in the joint investigation in Wuhan.  

The global organization also urged China to give data from early cases. The first human case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan, the central Chinese city, in December 2019. The country has repeatedly declined theories that the virus leaked from one of its laboratories and has said no more visits are needed.

Earlier this year, a WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around Wuhan with Chinese scientists and said in a joint report in March that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal but further research was needed.

However, Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said that the investigation was hampered due to a lack of raw data concerning the first days of the outbreak and has called for lab audits.

Ms. Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, stated that there would be further WHO-led international missions to China that would engage the country’s cooperation. More than three dozen recommended studies are still to be carried out to determine how the virus crossed from the animal species to humans.

A detailed examination of the earliest known and suspected cases in China before December 2019 was still needed, including reports of stored blood samples from 2019 in Wuhan and retrospective searches of hospital and mortality data for earlier cases. Labs in the area where the first reports of human infections emerged in Wuhan must be a focus, as ruling out an accident requires sufficient evidence, WHO said.

Mr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, said the new panel may be the last chance to establish the origin of SARS-COV-2, a virus that has stopped our whole world.

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

Related: WHO brings new strategy to vaccinate 70% of global population by mid-2022