WHO Kicks Off Wider Probe Into Coronavirus Origin But With Virtual Meeting Between Experts

WHO official said that virtual meeting was an important first step in a politically intoxicated environment

The World Health Organization and China have been facing criticism since the beginning of Coronavirus pandemic from many quarters, especially from US President Donald Trump who himself fel victim to the infection. But no one has an accurate answer to the origin of COVID-19.

Earlier this year, a team from WHO went to China to organize an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus but no concrete evidence was forthcoming. Now, another investigation to untangle the Coronavirus origin mystery has started on Friday, October 30, though it remained a virtual one. The expert team assembled by WHO met online with its Chinese counterparts to launch the inquiry that has been urged by over 100 countries.

The investigation is expected to include both medical and animal healthcare experts who are affiliated with the Geneva-based health agency, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the US and the World Organisation for Animal Health, along with specialists from other countries.

Coronavirus Pandemic
Coronavirus Pandemic (Representational Image) Wikimedia Commons

The Mission

The team is a WHO-led collaboration that includes international as well as Chinese experts. To uncover the origin of the virus, the mission is expected to include a visit to the Chinese city of Wuhan, in Hubei province that was the initial epicenter of the virus but it is still unclear when this trip will be taken up.

Mike Ryan, WHO health emergency program executive director, said Friday that he "fully expects" the international team of experts to "deploy on the ground", but the virtual meeting was an important step in a "politically intoxicated environment."

He also said that it is important to conduct a rigorous probe into the Coronavirus origin which affected millions of people to "build confidence between scientists, between governments... this type of thing will happen again in the future and we have got to build trust and the mechanisms that allow us to do this together."

But he noted that such work becomes harder during a politically intoxicated environment and becomes tough for the scientists to do what they are supposed to do "in situations like this". The virtual beginning of one of the most important probe was "always part of the plan" so that all the involved researchers could meet and review ongoing research.

The Blame Game Continues

More than a health issue, the Coronavirus has becomes a political issue between the US and China. How Beijing handled the outbreak in its initial stage and how WHO acted -- remained the top issues for the Trump administration, which has been pushing the blame on the Asian country despite criticism that the US government did not react even after it was alerted.

Meanwhile, China's top scientists including leading infectious disease expert Zhong Nanshan said though the virus first identified in China, it doesn't mean that the novel Coronavirus originated there. But many people still believe that it emerged in China and Xi Jinping's government let the virus spread across the world "deliberately".

Covid-19 origin Pixabay

China's National Health Commission said in a statement on Saturday, October 31 that the Chinese researchers presented their research into the transmission of the virus during the virtual meeting, including its animal origins, while the international group introduced global research on the novel Coronavirus' source. As per the commission, "The two sides agreed to continue to carry out exchanges of scientific research on the origins of the virus."

Ryan suggested that the UN agency wanted a "full-scale, prolonged, sustained, [and] comprehensive" set of scientific investigation in China, as well as in other countries. "We've seen the issues with mink and with other animals potentially outside China with the potential for us to infect animals who can then infect us back," he added.

As per Ryan, it is a complex issue and to get the right answer "I believe this is the method by which we will get the best answers and that is what we need, the best answers, not just any answer," that will satisfy political needs of speed as well as the political need of investigation.

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