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New advisory group is ‘our last chance’ to determine origin of Covid: WHO

New Delhi: The World Health Organization said Wednesday that its newly formed advisory group on dangerous pathogens could be the last chance to determine the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, then urged China to provide data from the initial cases.

A WHO-led team that spent four weeks in and around Wuhan with Chinese scientists earlier this year said in a joint report in March that the virus was probably transmitted from bats to humans via another animal, but Further research was required.

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As per known reports, the first case of Covid-19 was reported in December 2019 in Wuhan. China, which has repeatedly dismissed theories of a laboratory leak, has said no more visits are needed.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the investigation was hampered by a lack of raw data relating to the first days of the outbreak and called for a lab audit.

On Wednesday, the WHO named 26 proposed members of its Scientific Advisory Group on the Origin of Novel Pathogens (SAGO). These include Marion Koopmans, Thea Fischer, Hung Nguyen and Chinese animal health expert Yang Yungui, who participated in the joint investigation in Wuhan.

According to Reuters, the WHO’s technical chief on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said that WHO-led international missions to China would be carried out in cooperation with the country. She told a news conference that “more than three dozen recommended studies” still need to be done to determine how the virus passed from animal species to humans.

Van Kerkhove said he was reported as saying that Chinese testing for antibodies in Wuhan residents in 2019 would be “absolutely important” to understand the origins of the virus.

Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Chen Xu, said during a separate news conference that the findings of the joint study were “quite clear”, adding that international teams have already been sent to China twice. It is time to send teams to other places.”

“I believe that if we are going to continue with scientific research, I think it should be a joint effort based on science, not intelligence agencies,” Chen was quoted by Reuters. “So if we’re going to talk about anything, we’re doing all the business with the SAGO framework”.

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