A newly formed World Health Organization (WHO) team may be “our last chance” to understand the origins of the coronavirus, the agency’s top emergency expert said.
WHO has appointed 26 proposed members of its Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of New Pathogens (SAGO), to determine the origins of coronavirus.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Leader in COVID-19He said he hopes there will be more WHO-led international missions to China to encourage the country to cooperate.
She told a news conference that “more than three dozen recommended studies” are needed to understand how the virus crossed from animals to humans.
Reports on China’s antibody testing on residents of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in 2019, will be “absolutely critical” in understanding the origins of the virus, Ms Van Kerkhove added.
In an editorial in Science, the WHO said detailed investigations of the first known and suspected cases were still needed before December 2019.
He also wanted to look at the 2019 analysis of stored blood samples in Wuhan, as well as the retrospective searches of hospital and mortality data for previous cases.
There should also be a focus on labs in the area where the first reports of human infections emerged, as he said ruling out an accident requires sufficient evidence.
Mike Ryan, WHO’s leading emergency expert, said the new panel could be the last chance to establish the origin of “a virus that has stopped our entire world.”
He said the WHO sought to “take a step back” and “create an environment in which we can re-analyze scientific problems.”
“This is our best chance, and it may be our last chance to understand the origins of this virus,” he said.
Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told a separate press conference that the conclusions of the joint study were “quite clear,” adding that since international teams had already been sent to China twice, “it is time. to send teams to other countries. ” places. “
“I think that if we are going to continue scientific research, I think it should be a joint effort based on science, not by intelligence agencies,” Chen said.
So if we are going to talk about something, we are doing all the business within the SAGO framework ”.
China has repeatedly rejected theories that the virus leaked from one of its labs, saying no further visits are needed.
Earlier this year, a WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around Wuhan with Chinese scientists.
They produced a joint report in March that said the virus had likely been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, but more research was needed.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the investigation was hampered by a lack of raw data on the early days of the outbreak and called for laboratory audits.