With Mission to China, W.H.O. Tries to Rehabilitate Its Image

A team of scientists from the World Health Organization said in China on Tuesday that coronovirus was probably the first time it has spread to humans through an intermediate animal host and was “highly unlikely” to result in a laboratory accident.

The findings, given after 12 days of field work by a team visiting Wuhan, China, will be a laborious process to trace the origins of the global pandemic, a question that is important to help prevent recurrence. .

“All the work that has been done on the virus and trying to identify its origin points to a natural reservoir,” Dr. Peter K. Food safety scientist with Ben Ambrek, WHO, who is leading the team of experts. , Speaking at a press conference in Wuhan, the city where coronaviruses were first discovered late in 2019.

WHO experts largely focused their observations on the scientific aspects of their mission. But the investigation is influenced by politics in many ways. The Chinese government continues to suggest that the virus may have originated overseas, an idea many scientists exempt. Chinese officials on Tuesday used the news conference to promote the event, arguing that the discovery of the virus’s origin should be focused on locations outside China.

For the WHO, the visit has served as an opportunity to dispel criticism that it is too damaging for China.

For months, experts and politicians have condemned the WHO for allowing the Chinese government To control the investigation In the source of the epidemic. Chinese authorities, careful to attract attention during the outbreak Frequent delays By WHO experts and sought to limit the scope of its mission. The Chinese government faced increasing global pressure and finally allowed a team of 14 scientists to visit Wuhan last month.

The WHO has used the probe to project an image of transparency and independence. While in Wuhan, the team of scientists used social media to chronicle their visits to laboratories, Centers for Disease Control and live-animal markets. WHO officials have vowed to ask tough questions and insist on access to data and research, but it is unclear how the Chinese government will proceed.

Daniel R., an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University. Lucy said, “If the team doesn’t come up with some substance, people also say that it was all just a show off.”

The investigation is proceeding in an accused political environment. Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, recently suggested The United States should allow the WHO to send investigators as part of its investigation.

Authorities in the United States and other Western countries have many times doubted the WHO’s independence of investigation, worried that China might try to influence the results.

Now, it will fall on the team of scientists to conduct a difficult investigation, which it says may take several months or even years.

Although China eventually cooperated in the visit, the government is still in control of virus-related research in China and may seek to prevent embarrassing information from continuing.

“A trip is not enough time to conduct a thorough investigation,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. “They are doing all the work within the parameters set by the Chinese government.”

The WHO team praised the Chinese scientists who assisted in the mission, saying that the government acted with good faith to provide access to important sites such as. Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, Where some early cases were detected. The scientists were also allowed to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses a state-of-the-art laboratory that has been at the center of many unrelated theories about the virus.

Albi Zhang Contributed to research.

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