WHO Report On Origin of the Pandemic Leaves Countries Dissatisfied
April 5, 2021
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by Snigdh Baunthiyal

The World Health Organisation released a final report written jointly with Chinese scientists after a team spent four weeks in and around Wuhan in January and February to find out about the origins of the virus.  

According to the report, the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” as a cause.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu has said that important data about the early Covid-19 cases in China was withheld from the WHO investigators who travelled to China to research the origins of the pandemic. 

“In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data,” Tedros said. “I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing.”

One of the team’s investigators has already said China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the global pandemic began.

The WHO team’s leader, Peter Ben Embarek has said that second phase studies were required and it was “perfectly possible” the virus had been circulating in November or October 2019 around Wuhan. He also said, ‘We got access to quite a lot of data in many different areas, but of course there were areas where we had difficulties getting down to the raw data and there are many good reasons for that’

Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Korea, Slovenia, Britain, the United States and the European Union have released a joint statement saying, ‘The international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.’

The WHO team also stated that they faced political pressure from countries other than China while writing the report, but had not been pressured to remove anything from the final report.

The 300-page report lays out the data reviewed by the team outlines four scenarios for how the pandemic could have started

  • Direct spillover into people from an animal reservoir like bats—considered “possible to likely” by the team.
  • Spillover via frozen meat from an infected animal, a route the team labeled as    ‘possible’
  • A lab incident leading to the first infection—the one scenario deemed “extremely unlikely.”

China has refuted the theory that virus originated from a lab in Wuhan and has pushed the possibility that the infection could have arrived from outside China on frozen food. Some members of the WHO international team have said that the report’s conclusions are points which the international team and its Chinese counterparts could agree on

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