Several countries, including the United States, on Tuesday asked the WHO to conduct further investigation into the origins of COVID-19, as the first mission to China raised more questions than it resolved.
The calls were made on the occasion of the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly, which has gathered 194 members of the World Health Organization since Monday.
The first phase of the study was conducted at the beginning of the year in the Wuhan region, which is considered the cradle of the epidemic, with the participation of international experts and Chinese scholars, against the background of suspicion of their lack of independence from China, who are accused of this disease. The mission was hampered by the inclusion of months prior to accepting scholars’ access to its territory.
In discussions unfolding online from Geneva, US actor Jeremy Kunendyk on Tuesday stressed the importance of having “a robust and thorough, expert-led investigation into the origins of COVID-19”.
“It is important to prepare the second phase of the study on assets in order for it to be successful,” he said, noting that the analysis must be “based on science and independently.”
Other countries, including Australia, Japan and Portugal, have also made similar calls.
The expert report released in March put together a list of hypotheses and concluded that the most likely transmission of the new coronavirus from bats to an intermediate animal – which is not yet known – was before it occurred. It adapts to humans and does not cause it to happen. The global health crisis continues.
Experts recommend more research on their main hypotheses, but also several other scenarios. According to them, only one is not worth digging, the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.
This proposal caused an uproar. Soon the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, corrected the situation and made sure that all assumptions remained on the table, while criticizing the lack of access to data for China.
Then the head of the delegation of international scholars, Peter bin Mubarak, played down the importance of the matter, saying that in China as elsewhere, some data could not be shared for privacy reasons, and that he made an effort to find solutions to access data “in the second phase of the study.”
But since then, the World Health Organization has not provided any information on its progress, while many scientists denounced the disproportionate role that Beijing played in the first phase of the study and demanded that things change to the next step.
American actor Jeremy Kunendyk said: “The purpose of this investigation is not to determine responsibilities, but to rely on science, to find the origin of the virus and the epidemic to help us all prevent such a global catastrophe from occurring. It happens again.” .
His call was supported by the US Secretary of Health Xavier Becera, who requested that the second phase of the study provide experts with “the independence necessary to fully assess the origin of the virus and the first days of the epidemic.”
But Beijing wants to prevent blaming the epidemic at all costs, and the government appears to be doing its best to ensure that the investigation continues anywhere other than China.
Determining how the virus, which has killed more than 3.4 million people worldwide, is transmitted to humans is crucial in trying to prevent the next pandemic.
But the WHO cannot yet alone investigate a country. Several countries and experts called for the agency to be granted expanded powers to send experts quickly in times of crisis, but the proposal was not included in the draft resolution on strengthening the World Health Organization, which is scheduled to be adopted this week.
It is also expected that countries will decide, during the Assembly, to postpone the decision to launch or not to negotiate a treaty on epidemics, a document that is defended by the World Health Organization and several countries, including France and Germany.