WHO team arrives in Wuhan to search for pandemic origins

Scientists suspect the virus that has killed 1.9 million individuals since late 2019 jumped to people from bats or different animals, more than likely in China’s southwest. The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints it allowed the illness to unfold, says the virus got here from overseas, probably on imported seafood, however scientists reject that.

CGTN, the English-language channel of state broadcaster CCTV, reported the WHO team’s arrival. The members embody virus and different specialists from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.

A authorities spokesman mentioned this week they are going to “exchange views” with Chinese scientists however gave no indication whether or not they could be allowed to collect proof.

They will endure a two-week quarantine in addition to a throat swab check and an antibody check for COVID-19, in accordance to a put up on CGTN’s official Weibo account. They are to begin working with Chinese specialists through video convention whereas in quarantine.

China rejected calls for for a world investigation after the Trump administration blamed Beijing for the virus’s unfold, which plunged the worldwide financial system into its deepest droop for the reason that Nineteen Thirties.

After Australia known as in April for an impartial inquiry, Beijing retaliated by blocking imports of Australian beef, wine and different items.

One risk is {that a} wildlife poacher might need handed the virus to merchants who carried it to Wuhan, one of many WHO team members, zoologist Peter Daszak of the U.S. group EcoHealth Alliance, informed the Associated Press in November.

A single go to by scientists is unlikely to verify the virus’s origins; pinning down an outbreak’s animal reservoir is usually an exhaustive endeavor that takes years of research together with taking animal samples, genetic evaluation and epidemiological research.

“The government should be very transparent and collaborative,” mentioned Shin-Ru Shih, director on the Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections at Taiwan’s Chang Gung University.

The Chinese authorities has tried to stir confusion concerning the virus’s origin. It has promoted theories, with little proof, that the outbreak might need began with imports of tainted seafood, a notion rejected by worldwide scientists and companies.

“The WHO will need to conduct similar investigations in other places,” an official of the National Health Commission, Mi Feng, mentioned Wednesday.

Some of the WHO team had been en route to China every week in the past however had to flip again after Beijing introduced they hadn’t acquired legitimate visas.

That might need been a “bureaucratic bungle,” however the incident “raises the question if the Chinese authorities were trying to interfere,” mentioned Adam Kamradt-Scott, a well being knowledgeable on the University of Sydney.

A attainable focus for investigators is the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the town the place the outbreak started. One of China’s prime virus research labs, it constructed an archive of genetic details about bat coronaviruses after the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

According to WHO’s printed agenda for its origins research, there are not any plans to assess whether or not there might need been an unintended launch of the coronavirus on the Wuhan lab, as some American politicians, together with President Donald Trump, have claimed.

A “scientific audit” of Institute data and security measures could be a “routine activity,” mentioned Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist on the University of Edinburgh. He mentioned that will depend on how keen Chinese authorities are to share info.

“There’s a big element of trust here,” Woolhouse mentioned.

An AP investigation discovered the federal government imposed controls on research into the outbreak and bars scientists from talking to reporters.

The coronavirus’s precise origin could by no means be traced as a result of viruses change rapidly, mentioned Woolhouse.

Although it could be difficult to discover exactly the identical COVID-19 virus in animals as in people, discovering carefully associated viruses may assist clarify how the illness first jumped from animals and make clear what preventive measures are wanted to keep away from future epidemics.

Scientists ought to focus as an alternative on making a “comprehensive picture” of the virus to assist reply to future outbreaks, Woolhouse mentioned.

“Now is not the time to blame anyone,” Shih mentioned. “We shouldn’t say, it’s your fault.”

Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials might not be printed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed with out permission.

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