A World Health Organization research mission to China is expected to arrive in Wuhan next month to investigate how the novel coronavirus passed from animals to humans, and whether it appeared earlier or in a different location of what we thought initially.
Fabian Leendertz, a biologist at the German Robert Koch Institute and a member of the WHO 10-person mission team, told The Associated Press that they will work with Chinese scientists for four to five weeks.
Most scientists believe the Sars-Cov-2 virus started in animals in China, possibly bats, before jumping to humans. Cases were first discovered in the city of Wuhan in late December 2019, linked to a seafood market. More than 73.4 million people have since been diagnosed with the virus and 1.63 million have died.
The WHO team will examine medical samples and X-rays stored before the first known outbreak to see if the virus was circulating earlier, and will take samples from bats and other species to try to find the virus. animal in which the virus first appeared, Leendertz told me.
“Then to see where this trail takes us, if it’s another city or if it stays in Wuhan or where it’s going,” he said. Leendertz said it was possible that the Wuhan market was “just the first big event or one of the first.”
“The big reach is to try to find out what happened,” Leendertz said.
“How the virus got from which animal to maybe an intermediate host and then to humans. To reconstruct the scenario. “
The source of the virus has been the subject of conspiracy allegations and cover-up charges, and has fueled diplomatic feuds, especially between the United States and China. Early attempts by Chinese authorities to cover up the epidemic, including the detention of citizen journalists and the punishment of doctors, and a reported reluctance to allow the WHO or others to investigate in China have only helped ‘add to hostilities throughout the year.
The WHO sent a first research team to China in July to help understand “how the virus started”.
Chinese authorities and state media recently stepped up an apparent campaign to suggest the virus did not originate in China, including seizing reports of the virus’s earlier presence in Italy, despite the researcher himself. even called the allegations “propaganda”. People’s Daily said in a social media post that “all available evidence suggests the coronavirus did not start in Wuhan, central China.”
However Michael Ryan, director of the health emergency program at the World Health Organization (WHO), told reporters last month that it would be “highly speculative” to argue that the disease has not emerged in China. .
“It’s clear from a public health perspective that you start your investigations where the human cases first appeared.”
The WHO itself has been accused of being too deferential to China in the early months, accepting claims later found to be false, including that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission, slowing the world’s ability to respond.
Aside from the quarantine on arrival, Leendertz said he was not aware of any restrictions regarding the team.
“There will be a report from this mission, but I’m pretty sure (this) won’t give the full answer,” he said.
“It’s really not about finding a guilty country,” Leendertz said.
“It’s about trying to understand what happened and see if, based on that data, we can try to reduce the risk in the future.”