Virus Origins Remain Unclear in W.H.O.-China Inquiry

For 27 days, he searched in Wuhan for clues, visits to hospitals, animal markets and government laboratories, conducting interviews and suppressing Chinese authorities for data, but an international team of experts pandered to the corono virus Understanding the origins still drove the country away. Around 2.8 million people have died worldwide.

The 124-page report of a joint investigation by the World Health Organization and China – to be officially released on Tuesday but leaked to the media on Monday – has glimpses of new details, but no new insights. And this does little to alleviate Western concerns about the role of the Chinese Communist Party, which is extremely resistant to outside scrutiny and has at times been tried by the WHO to hinder any investigation. The report is also unclear whether China will allow outside experts. keep digging.

“There is no risk of going anywhere in the investigation, and we can never find out the true origin of the virus,” said Yanjang Huang, senior partner in global health at Council at Foreign Relations.

The report, which received an advance copy of The New York Times, says that China still does not have the data or research to tell when and how the virus began to spread. Some skeptics outside the country say that China may have more information than this.

The expert team also dismisses the possibility of being “highly unlikely” that the virus accidentally emerged from the Chinese laboratory, even though some scientists say it is an important question.

The Chinese government has repeatedly tried to divert the investigation to its advantage, providing some degree of access and cooperation. The report was written jointly by a team of 17 scientists from around the world, selected by the WHO, and 17 Chinese scientists, many of whom work or work in government positions, give Beijing great influence over its findings .

Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said he was not sure the chances of a leak in the lab were extremely low after seeing a copy of the report. He said he agreed that the virus could have evolved to spread to humans naturally, but he did not see any argument in the report to rule out the possibility of escaping from the lab.

A member of the team of experts, a British disease ecologist, Peter Ilzam, who runs the Ecolitics Alliance, a New York-based epidemic prevention group, pushed back against criticism of the team’s work and the level of China’s cooperation. He said that the hypothesis of the lab leak was “political from the beginning.” Dr. Daszak said the WHO team was not restricted in its interviews with scientists, who were on the ground at the start of the epidemic.

He himself has alleged that his previous research on coronaviruses with the Wuhan Institute of Virology led to a conflict of interest, which he said is what a disease ecologist should do.

“We were in the right place because we knew there was a risk of the virus emerging,” Dr. Daszak said. “We were working there with this exact viral group and it happened.”

The prevailing theory is that the virus originated in bats, jumped into another animal, and then mutated in a way that enabled it to transmit humans and humans from human to human. But the process of tracing the origin of a virus is extremely laborious.

To answer the many remaining questions, the report recommends retrospective studies of human infections, including early cases and more virus testing of livestock and wildlife in China and Southeast Asia. It also calls for more detailed tracing of pathways from farms to markets in Wuhan requiring extensive interviews and blood tests for farmers, vendors and other workers.

But it is unclear to what extent China would cooperate, and the country’s covert and defensive behavior helped fuel theories that it was somehow to blame for the onset of the epidemic. Local officials in Wuhan tried to hide the outbreak first; Beijing has since expelled many Western journalists and issued evidence-free theories about the virus arising elsewhere – although all of the earliest known cases were in China, and experts believe it is almost certain Roopa had appeared before.

In an interview to CNN on Sunday, Secretary Antony J. “We have real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing has clearly helped write it,” Blinken said.

China’s growing ties with the US and other countries have also complicated the investigation. The Biden administration has repeatedly criticized China’s lack of transparency, including refusal to hand over raw data about the initial Kovid-19 cases to investigators when they visited Wuhan. Chinese officials have suggested that the United States should welcome the WHO to investigate the unfounded theory that the virus originated in the US Army’s laboratory.

“We will never accept baseless allegations and derogatory statements made by the United States on the issue of the epidemic,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a regular news briefing in Beijing on Monday.

In the news articles of the bombing, China’s campaigners have questioned China as a sign of openness to the world and as a sign of the government’s handling of the epidemic.

The WHO has come under pressure from the Chinese government to demand more data and research. But by design, the Global Health Agency is beholden to its member states, who did not grant grants to carry out the WHO’s extensive sweeping powers, for example, forensic investigation of a laboratory accident in China.

Although most of the reports were heavy in detail about molecular studies, virus development, and potential animal hosts, the section dealing with the possibility of a laboratory leak was the best. While the animal origin of the virus is largely undisputed, some scientists postulate that the virus could have been collected and was present in the laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, even though Chinese scientists say it was not.

Lack of transparency in China as well as other concerns prompted a small group of scientists not to associate with the WHO, which cannot call this month new inquiry In the origin of the epidemic. He said that such an investigation should consider the possibility that the virus ran from a laboratory in Wuhan or infected someone inside it.

The lab leak theory has been promoted by some officials in the Trump administration, including Dr. Robert redfield, Former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in comments to CNN last week. He offered no evidence and insisted that it was his opinion; The theory has been widely rejected by scientists and US intelligence officials.

Matt Apuzzo and Apoorva Mandavili contributed reporting. Albie Zhang contributed to the research.

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