WHO forms new expert group to continue research into origins of Covid in Wuhan

WION Web Team
Geneva, SwitzerlandUpdated: Aug 13, 2021, 11:34 AM IST

World Health Organization (WHO) Ethiopian Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press briefing on Covid-19 Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

A WHO call last month for the investigation's second stage to include audits of the Wuhan labs infuriated Beijing. China's vice health minister Zeng Yixin said the plan showed "disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science"

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a new expert group to continue research into the origins of coronavirus in Wuhan despite China's opposition.

The UN health agency's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference, ''the International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, is a new advisory group for WHO, which will be responsible for advising WHO on the development of a global framework to systematically study the emergence of future emerging pathogens with pandemic potential.''

The WHO asked countries to come together to combat the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus and urged equitable access to essential countermeasures.

Earlier, Tedros had asked China to share raw data from the earliest Covid-19 cases to revive its probe into the origins of the disease.

"We oppose political tracing... and abandoning the joint report" issued after a WHO expert team visited Wuhan in January, vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu had told reporters. "We support scientific tracing."

After much delay, a WHO team of international experts went to Wuhan in January 2021 to produce a first phase report, which was written in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts.

Their March report drew no firm conclusions, instead ranking four hypotheses.

It said the virus jumping from bats to humans via an intermediate animal was the most probable scenario, while a leak from the Wuhan virology labs was "extremely unlikely".

'Arrogance towards science'

However, the investigation faced criticism for lacking transparency and access, and for not evaluating the lab-leak theory more deeply.

A WHO call last month for the investigation's second stage to include audits of the Wuhan labs infuriated Beijing, with vice health minister Zeng Yixin saying the plan showed "disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science".

After reading the phase one report, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concluded that the probe into Wuhan's virology labs had not gone far enough.

Meanwhile, Danish scientist Peter Ben Embarek, who led the international mission to Wuhan, said a lab employee infected while taking samples in the field falls under one of the likely hypotheses as to how the virus passed from bats to humans.

He told the Danish public channel TV2 that the suspect bats were not from the Wuhan region and the only people likely to have approached them were workers from the Wuhan labs.

(With inputs from Agencies)