September 27, 2021

Investigation into the origin of Covid-19: WHO requests laboratory monitoring in China

The World Health Organization (WHO) asked, Friday July 16, among other measures, the ‘control of laboratories’ active in the region where the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in China, as part of the following its investigation into the origin of the pandemic. The dispatch by the WHO of an expert mission to Wuhan last January did not shed any light on the coronavirus, which has already killed more than 4 million people around the world.

The Geneva-based international organization has faced mounting pressure for months to conduct a new, in-depth investigation.

The WHO has been calling for a new investigation since last March and now believes that more in-depth studies are needed in five main areas.

The first would be to carry out ‘checks of the laboratories and research establishments concerned active in the region where the first human cases were identified in December 2019’, said the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during a ‘a meeting on Friday with representatives of the member states.

Animal transmission still investigated

In addition to Chinese laboratory controls, the WHO wants to conduct ‘integrated studies involving humans, wild animals, captive and farmed animals, and the environment,’ Dr Tedros said, and ‘studies that prioritize geographic areas where SARS-CoV-2 circulation has been reported earliest and bordering areas with high prevalence of SARS-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV) in non-human reservoirs ‘.

The agency also calls for ‘studies related to animal markets in Wuhan and surrounding areas, including ongoing studies of animals sold at Huanan wholesale market’, as well as’ studies related to activities aimed at to trace the history of the animals, together with additional work in epidemiology and molecular epidemiology, including the first sequences of the virus’.

Beijing accused of lack of transparency

However, the new phase of the study promises to be delicate. Beijing on Friday rejected criticism from the WHO director general over China’s supposed lack of cooperation in the investigation into the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.

China must ‘cooperate better’ to understand what ‘really happened’, the WHO director general said Thursday, to which a spokesman for Chinese diplomacy, Zhao Lijian, retorted that ‘this issue should not be politicized’.

Responding to Beijing on Friday, the WHO director-general said he expects China ‘to support this new phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency’, adding that he also expects all Member States ‘that they support the scientific process by refraining from politicizing it.’