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WHO team finally landed in China and started tracking coronavirus

More than a year after the new coronavirus first appeared in China, a team of World Health Organization experts finally arrived in Wuhan’s central city on Thursday and began looking for its source.

A study by a team of 10 scientists is an important step in understanding how the virus jumped from animals to humans and can avoid another pandemic. It’s probably hard to get an answer.

The Chinese government is notorious for being wary of external surveillance and has repeatedly hindered the arrival and investigation of the team. Even in the best of circumstances, a complete inquiry can take months, if not more. The team must also navigate China’s attempts to politicize the investigation.

Here’s what you need to know about the survey:

Visa delay. Quarantine rules. Political obstruction.

Chinese officials appear to be again concerned about drawing new attention to the country’s early mistakes in dealing with the pandemic, and have used a variety of tactics over the past year to thwart WHO investigations.

China laid the groundwork by visiting two WHO experts in July after resisting requests from other countries to allow independent investigators to study the origin of the pathogen. The team was soon quarantined for 14 days, and members began to work as detectives from a distance.

They were not allowed to visit Wuhan, where the virus first appeared.

China has delayed approval of visits by a full team of experts for months, frustrating health organization leaders. According to health officials, when the visit appeared to have ended earlier this month, it collapsed at the last moment Beijing did not provide visas to visitors. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyes, director of the World Health Organization, announced a rare accusation in Beijing at a press conference, saying he was “extremely disappointed” late.

The Chinese government has demanded that Chinese scientists oversee an important part of the investigation. It has restricted access to critical research and data by the World Health Organization. All WHO teams must be quarantined in Wuhan for two weeks before the investigation begins.

Critics say Beijing’s desire for control means that research is more likely to be political than scientific.

Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow of Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations, said: “This study needs to be an independent, transparent and thorough study that is not affected by politics.” But we must be realistic. “

Despite the trouble, WHO states that it intends to carry out a rigorous and transparent investigation.

“WHO has been committed to investigating the origin of the virus from the beginning,” said Tarik Jašarević, a spokesman for the agency, in a statement. “We call on all countries to support these efforts by showing openness and transparency.”

According to official broadcaster CGTN, teams arriving in Wuhan will face a radically changed city in late 2019 since the virus first appeared. The city’s devastation, which was blocked on January 23, last year and became a symbol of the virus, was held up by Chinese authorities a year later as a success story to defeat the virus — the city was reborn.

WHO experts have decades of experience plumbing the depth of viral, animal health, and disease management. They come from the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United States and other countries. Members of the team include Peter Daszak, a British disease ecologist, and Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese scientist studying zoonotic diseases.

However, as of Thursday, about 2 million people have died worldwide, and tracking the source of the virus that has infected more than 92 million people is a daunting task. Experts believe that the virus originated naturally in animals, perhaps bats, but little else is known.

The team is expected to investigate the earliest reported cases of the virus in China, perhaps scrutinizing data from samples of hunted meat and live animals collected in Wuhan’s vast fresh market. I will. Many of the first reported infections were followed there.

According to public health experts, how much access the team has in China is important.

Rina McIntyre, head of the Kirby Institute’s biosecurity program, can see all the data collected by the China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time of the outbreak, including “contact tracing, environmental sampling, gene sequences, zero patient identification, etc.” must. “It’s important to do this comprehensively and transparently,” at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The Health Organization has not disclosed the time required for the investigation and has not announced a detailed itinerary for the team’s visit.

Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist on the WHO team, said the study was a “long-term project.”

“We will put together all the scientific information already collected by our Chinese colleagues and discuss’what it teaches us’,” she said with China’s international broadcaster CGTN. He said in a recent interview. “Is there any information I would like to add? How can I do that?”

The pandemic has hurt China’s reputation, and many foreign governments are still angry that Beijing has done nothing more to contain the crisis in the early stages. That’s why Chinese proponents are using WHO research to strengthen China’s image and portray China as a mature superpower.

“China is open, candid and sincere,” official news agency Xinhua said in a commentary on Wednesday’s survey.

WHO itself has also been attacked by the Trump administration for appearing to be succumbing to China’s will, despite the US facing criticism of its ineffective response to the pandemic.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before the team landed Said on twitter Tuesday: “@ WHO rotted due to Chinese influence and bought cheaply. One year after the first case was reported, WHO investigators still do not have access to Wuhan.”

That same day, the state-owned tabloid Global Times said the pending visit was always dedicated to China’s contribution to the global fight against the pandemic with a transparent, responsible attitude and a spirit of respect. I showed what I had done. ” Science. “

The Chinese government sought to push forward with an unfounded theory that the virus had emerged outside of China. Chinese scientists have suggested that, without evidence, packaged foods from abroad may have brought the virus to China, or a pandemic may have started in India.

Experts say the intensifying political situation makes it difficult for WHO to conduct independent investigations.

“The main concern here is that the cause of the outbreak is highly political,” said Huang, a global health expert. “It really narrowed the space for WHO to conduct independent, objective and scientific research.”

Albee Zhang and Claire Fu contributed to the research.

WHO team finally landed in China and started tracking coronavirus

Source link WHO team finally landed in China and started tracking coronavirus

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