Two experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) will spend the next two days in the Chinese capital to lay the groundwork for a larger mission to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An animal health expert and an epidemiologist will work in Beijing to establish the ‘scope and conditions’ for the future mission, aimed at learning how the virus from animals has sprung on humans, a statement by the UN agency said.
Scientists believe the virus may have originated in bats and was subsequently transmitted through another mammal, such as a civet or an armadillo-like pangolin, before it was passed to people at a fresh market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
In an effort to block future outbreaks, China has suppressed wildlife trade and closed some wet markets while enforcing strict containment measures that seem to have virtually stopped new local infections.
The WHO’s mission is politically sensitive, and the US – its main financier – is committed to severing ties to these allegations, wrongly tackling the outbreak, and favoring China.
An example of a Chinese wet market in Macau, China, where wild animals are sold for human consumption. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the practice has been widely banned in China, as it is believed that the virus may have been passed from animals to humans in a similar market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
WHO has dispatched one animal health expert and one epidemiologist to lay the groundwork for a future study of the origin of Covid-19. Above speaks Dr. Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in China, during an interview
More than 120 countries called for an investigation into the origin of the virus at the World Health Assembly in May.
China has called for WHO to lead the investigation and is waiting for the pandemic to be controlled. The US, Brazil and India continue to see an increasing number of cases.
The last WHO coronavirus-specific mission to China was in February, after which the team’s leader, Canadian physician Bruce Aylward, praised China’s control efforts and information sharing. Canadian and US officials have since criticized him for being too lenient with China.
An Associated Press investigation found that according to internal audio recordings in January, WHO officials were privately frustrated at the lack of transparency and access in China.
It has been complained, among other things, that China delayed the release of the genetic map or genome of the virus for more than a week after three different government laboratories completely decoded the information.
Privately, top WHO leaders complain at meetings the week of January 6 – days after the first case was discovered – that China did not share enough data to assess how effectively the virus spread between people or what risk it posed to the rest of the world formed precious time.
One theory suggests that Pangolins, the most trafficked animal in the world, could have transmitted the virus to humans. No consensus has yet been reached on the transfer. Pictured: Pangolin is watered by a customs officer who has confiscated them
US officials have hammered WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus into praising China for its ‘transparency’ early in the outbreak, and on Tuesday the Trump administration formally notified Congress of its withdrawal from the organization, after it intended to do so in May 29.
US Senator Robert Mendendez, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, announced the notification on Twitter, criticizing the decision as shortsighted and risky.
Congress was notified that POTUS officially withdrew the US from the WHO during a pandemic. To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic and disjointed doesn’t do it justice, ‘he wrote.
“This won’t protect American lives or interests – it leaves Americans sick and America alone.”
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, pictured above at this year’s World Health Meeting in Geneva, has been hammered by the U.S. for praising China’s transparency in the early stages of the outbreak, while others have criticized the country for it has not shared enough data to assess how effectively the virus has spread between people
The government also told the UN Secretary General, a government official told Fox News. The move will take effect in July 2021 – potentially giving Trump or Democrat Joe Biden, who heads the polls, a chance to reverse the decision.
Trump accused the WHO this spring when he shocked US and world officials when he announced the move. He said the WHO has failed to “implement much-needed reforms” and said the US would divert money to other global health organizations.
The action even withdrew the prominent republicans, who have raised some of the WHO’s mistakes, but nevertheless saw the advantage of a global health group addressing issues such as COVID-19, malaria and ebola.