COVID-19: WHO forms scientific advisory group to identify Coronavirus origin, says it may be ‘last chance’

While talking about its new scientific advisory group, WHO said that it may be ‘our last chance’ to determine the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus. It also urged China to provide the data from the early cases.

Created On: Oct 14, 2021 12:26 IST
WHO experts group on COVID-19 origin
WHO experts group on COVID-19 origin

The World Health Organization on October 13, 2021, named the 26 experts forming its new Scientific Advisory Group on the origins of novel pathogens (SAGO). The group formed by the global health body includes several who served on its mission to Wuhan, China, to probe the source of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The statement by WHO named the 26 proposed members ahead of a two-week period of the public consultation, including Thea Fisher, Marian Koopmans, Hung Nguyen, and Chinese animal health expert Yang Yungui, who also took part in the joint investigation in 2021.

While talking about its new scientific advisory group, WHO said that it may be ‘our last chance’ to determine the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus. It also urged China to provide the data from the early cases.

WHO’s previous probe in China to identify COVID-19 origin

The first human cases of Coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. China has repeatedly dismissed the theory that the virus leaked from one of its laboratories and has also said that no more visits are required from WHO experts investigating the origin of the virus.

A WHO-led team had spent almost four weeks in and around Wuhan earlier in 2021 with scientists from China and had said in a joint report in March 2021 that the virus had probably transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, however, further research was needed.

As per the director-general of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the investigation was held back due to the shortage of raw data pertaining to the first days of the outbreak and has called for lab audits.

Dozens of studies needed to study COVID origin

The WHO Technical lead on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove voiced hope that there would be further WHO-led international missions to China that will engage the country’s complete cooperation.

She further added that more than three dozen recommended studies must be carried out to determine how the virus crossed from the animal species to humans.

Van Kerkhove said that the reported Chinese testing for the antibodies in Wuhan residents in 2019 will be extremely critical to understand the virus’s origins.

WHO’s top emergency expert said that the newly formed panel may be the last chance to establish the origins of SARS-CoV-2, “a virus that stopped the whole world”.

China on WHO’s probe into origins of COVID-19

China’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Chen Xu said that the conclusions of the previous joint study were perfectly clear, adding that the international teams had been sent to China twice already. He added that it is time to send teams to other places as well.

Chen said that if we are going to continue with scientific research, it should be a joint effort based on science and not by the intelligence agencies.

Background

China came under international scrutiny after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in 2020. A rigorous investigation was demanded by the US as well as other nations on the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which was assumed to have been originated from one of the labs in Wuhan, China. The country reported its first human cases of COVID-19 in December 2019.

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