WHO says new team could be ‘last chance’ to find origins of COVID-19 | New

The United Nations health agency says the new task force “is our best chance” to try to understand the origins of the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said its newly created task force may be the “last chance” to uncover the truth about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost two years since the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, its origins remain unclear and experts continue to question whether the virus has passed from animals to humans or whether it could have escaped from it. ‘a laboratory.

In February, a joint WHO-China mission concluded that the theory of a Wuhan laboratory leak was “highly unlikely” and did not warrant further investigation.

However, the WHO director general expressed frustration with the level of access China has given to the international mission in China.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the mission’s final report did not do a “thorough enough” assessment of the possibility that the virus was introduced to humans through a laboratory incident.

The WHO on Wednesday announced the names of 26 candidates to join the new Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of the New Pathogen (SAGO).

The proposed team of scientists includes six people who visited China as part of the previous WHO-China mission.

The appointment of members will be formalized in two weeks after a period of public consultation, the WHO said.

WHO was seeking to “take a step back, to create an environment in which we can once again look at scientific issues,” said Michael Ryan, WHO’s director of emergencies. “This is our best chance, and this may be our last chance to understand the origins of this virus,” he added.

Security personnel gather near the entrance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a World Health Organization team visit to Wuhan, China’s Hubei Province [File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]

WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, Ryan and Tedros on Wednesday released a editorial in the journal Science emphasizing that “laboratory hypotheses must be carefully examined … A laboratory accident cannot be ruled out until there is sufficient evidence to do so and these results are openly shared” .

China has repeatedly denied the possibility of a laboratory leak and said no further visit is necessary.

The country’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Chen Xu, told a separate press conference that the findings of the WHO-China joint study were “fairly clear.”

“It’s time to send teams to other places,” he said, adding that international teams had already been sent to China twice.

The new team was not only put in place to find out where the virus came from, but also to establish a framework for the future.

“The emergence of new viruses that can trigger epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and although SARS-CoV-2 is the last such virus, it will not be the last,” Tedros said .

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