A two-member advance team of World Health Organization (WHO) experts has left for China to organise an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 behind a pandemic that has killed more than 550,000 people globally, the U.N. agency said on Friday.
Two World Health Organization (WHO) experts are heading to China to interact with scientists there to study the transmission of COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic from animals to humans, the global health body chief said on Friday.
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The virus is believed to have emerged in a wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year after jumping the species barrier from the animal kingdom to infect humans.
WHO’s inspection of virus origins
Addressing a webinar, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the global health experts will also prepare a scientific plan with their Chinese counterparts to identify the zoonotic source of the COVID-19 virus.
“As we continue to tackle the pandemic, we are also looking into the origins of the virus,” he said.
Adhanom said the scientists want to learn about the progress made in understanding the animal reservoir for COVID-19 and how the disease jumped between animals and humans.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later told a news conference: “Two WHO experts are currently en route to China to meet with fellow scientists and learn about the progress made in understanding the animal reservoir for COVID-19 and how the disease jumped between animals and humans.”
“This will help lay the groundwork for the WHO-led international mission into finding the origins,” he said.
The team comprising an epidemiologist and an animal health specialist are flying to China to try and identify the pandemic’s animal source, WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said a UN press conference in Geneva.
Harris said the aim is also to examine from which species of animal the virus originated and then transmitted to humans.
On April 20, WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib had said that so far, all available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin, and it was not manipulated or manufactured in a lab, or somewhere else.
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She was responding to allegations that the virus spread from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“It most probably has its ecological reservoir in bats, but how the virus came from bats to humans is still to be discovered,” she said.
Missing intermediary host
“There was certainly an intermediary host or another animal that transmitted this virus from bats to this other animal, to humans, “she said.
Adhanom told international diplomats on Thursday that the member states at the 73rd World Health Assembly held in May had adopted a landmark resolution urging the WHO to initiate an independent and comprehensive evaluation of the lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19.
“This is a time for self-reflection, to look at the world we live in and to find ways to strengthen our collaboration as we work together to save lives and bring this pandemic under control,” said the chief of WHO.
“The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation,” he said.
The WHO had waited for seven months to investigate the source of the virus and this has led to criticism of the organization and American officials accused Adhanom of being too lenient to China.
As expected, China has taken the lead to claim that it invited WHO experts to investigate the virus and the origins of COVID-19. The first outbreak was officially detected in January, and there have been repeated calls for a deeper probe into the origins of the disease. However, the WHO team that visited China in February had only praises to offer, for its efforts in the war against Covid-19.
Earlier WHO mission led by Canadian doctor Bruse Aylward that went to China in February was criticized in the US for praising China in its fight against COVID-19.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk