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New Delhi: The World Health Organization said that its newly formed advisory group on dangerous pathogens may be the last chance to determine the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on Wednesday, then urged China to provide data from early cases.
A WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around Wuhan earlier this year with Chinese scientists and said in a joint report in March that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal but further research was needed.
According to known reports, the first case of Covid-19 was reported in December 2019 in Wuhan. China which has repeatedly dismissed theories of a lab leak has said that has said no more visits are needed.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the Director-General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the investigation was hampered by a dearth of raw data pertaining to the first days of the outbreak’s spread and has called for lab audits.
On Wednesday, WHO named 26 proposed members of its Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO). They include Marion Koopmans, Thea Fischer, Hung Nguyen and Chinese animal health expert Yang Yungui, who took part in the joint investigation in Wuhan.
According to Reuters, Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, said that further WHO-led international missions to China will be met with the country’s cooperation. She told a news conference that “more than three dozen recommended studies” must still to be carried out to determine how the virus crossed from the animal species to humans.
She was reported as saying that the Chinese testing for antibodies in Wuhan residents in 2019 will be “absolutely critical” to understanding the virus’s origins, van Kerkhove said.
Meanwhile, Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, during a separate news conference said that conclusions of the joint study were “quite clear,” adding that as international teams had been sent to China twice already, “it is time to send teams to other places.”
“I do believe that if we are going to continue with the scientific research I think it should be a joint effort based on science not by the intelligence agencies,” Chen was quoted by Reuters. “So if we are going to talk about anything, we are doing the whole business with the framework of SAGO”.
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