WHO says Chinese mission is not playing blame game

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Geneva (AFP)

The World Health Organization insisted on Monday that the international investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was due to start this week in China, was not looking for “someone to blame”.

WHO’s emergency director Michael Ryan said the delayed mission – which ultimately got the green light from Beijing – was about science, not politics.

Ten international experts will travel to China from Thursday to probe the origins of the new coronavirus, more than a year after the start of the pandemic and amid accusations that Beijing tried to thwart the investigation.

“Understanding the origins of the disease is not about finding someone to blame,” Ryan said at a press conference in Geneva.

“It’s about finding the scientific answers on the very important interface between the animal kingdom and the human kingdom.

“It is imperative that we understand this interface.

“We’re looking for the answers here, not the culprits or the people to blame. ”

Experts say solving the mystery of how the virus passed from animals to humans is crucial to preventing another pandemic.

The mission will travel to Wuhan in China, where the first cluster of cases was detected in December 2019.

The WHO expected the investigation to begin last week but, to the surprise and disappointment of the United Nations health agency with two members already en route, Beijing suddenly announced a heist of last minute on entry clearance.

– Tedros pleads for ‘space’ –

Following the disruption and scrutiny, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pleaded Monday for the mission to be given the space to do its job.

“We are pleased that an international team of scientists – distinguished experts from 10 institutions and countries – are starting their trip to China to undertake and review scientific research with their Chinese counterparts on the origins of the Covid-19 virus,” he said. said.

“Studies will begin in Wuhan, China, to identify the potential source of infection of the first cases. Scientific evidence will lead to hypotheses, which will then serve as the basis for further, longer-term studies.

“This is important not only for Covid-19, but also for the future of global health security and for managing threats from emerging diseases with pandemic potential.

“Let’s give this team of scientists the space to work effectively with their Chinese counterparts, and we wish them all the best of luck. ”

The new coronavirus has killed nearly two million people since the outbreak of the epidemic in Wuhan.

“This milestone is dark and shocking as we approach it,” Ryan said.

At least 1.9 million people have died and more than 90 million cases have been recorded, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

These figures are based on daily tolls provided by the health authorities in each country and exclude subsequent reassessments by statistical agencies.

Thousands of mutations in the virus have occurred as it is transmitted from person to person around the world.

The new variants recently detected in Britain and South Africa are apparently more contagious, although no evidence has emerged that they have increased the severity of any subsequent illness.

“Over the weekend, the WHO was informed by Japan of a new variant of the virus,” Tedros said.

“The more the Covid-19 virus spreads, the greater the risk of further changes in the virus. In particular, the transmissibility of certain variants of the virus seems to be increasing, ”he explained.

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