WHO forms new expert panel to continue probe on COVID-19 origin

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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The World Health Organization (WHO) is creating a new group to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, with an aim to end “political point-scoring” that had disturbed the probe.

WHO has been under pressure for its inability to say where and how the virus began spreading. The uncertainty regarding the origin of the virus has also created tensions among the Organization’s members especially between China, where COVID-19 cases were first identified in late 2019, and the US.

The Organization has requested cooperation from all governments to accelerate studies into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and “to depoliticize the situation”. It specified that a new advisory group called the “International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens” would support a fast pace undertaking of further studies.

“We should work altogether. You, me, everyone wants to know the origin of the worst pandemic in a century,” WHO spokesperson Ms. Fadela Chaib said at a UN briefing.

Last day, Washington welcomed the WHO plan, noting the “emphasis on scientific-based studies and data-driven efforts to find the origins of this pandemic so that we can better detect, prevent and respond to future disease outbreaks.”

Earlier this year, US President Joe Biden ordered aides to find answers on COVID-19 origins and report back in 90 days. In its final report, written jointly with Chinese scientists, a WHO-led team that spent four weeks in and around the city of Wuhan said that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal. It said that a leak from a laboratory was “extremely unlikely” as a cause.

However, the WHO mission leader Mr. Peter Ben Embarek, in a documentary broadcast said that the lab hypothesis merited further study. A WHO official said that its statement on advancing the virus origins study bore no relation to those remarks, noting that Mr. Ben Embarek made the comment months ago.

Related: COVID-19 vaccine may not stop Delta variant transmission; UK health body


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