The WHO criticizes that China has withdrawn new data related to the origin of the virus: “We ask for transparency”


The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that, last Sunday, they learned of new data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention related to the origin of the Covid-19, and that they were withdrawn shortly after, for which reason he has asked the Asian country for “transparency”.

These are data referring to samples taken at the Huanan market in Wuhan in 2020. “We continue to ask China to be transparent when sharing data, and to carry out the necessary investigations and share the results. Understanding how the pandemic began remains both a moral and a scientific imperative,” Tedros claimed at a press conference this Friday.

Specifically, these data were published on the GISAID website, an international initiative to share genomic data on the influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2, at the end of January. “While it was online, scientists from various countries downloaded the data and analyzed it. As soon as we became aware of these data, we contacted the Chinese CDC and urged them to share them with the WHO and the international scientific community so that we could analyze them,” explained the WHO director-general.

“These are some molecular tests of samples that were collected in the Huanan market in January 2020. These new data provide molecular evidence that some of the animals that were there were susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. And some of these animals include raccoons,” said WHO lead epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove. “Unfortunately, this does not give us the answer to how the pandemic started, but it does provide more clues,” she assured, adding that “there are many more studies that need to be carried out.”

“Were these animals traded? Were they wild or domestic animals? Where were they raised? We have repeatedly called for studies to be done in other markets in Wuhan and Hubei and all over China, to trace those animals back to their farms of origin so that we can go back in time and really see where they were bred,” Van Kerkhove explained.

In addition, the WHO has also requested that serological tests be carried out on people who worked in the markets and on the people who worked on the farms from which these animals came. “There are many unanswered questions and this updated information provides an additional clue,” he stressed.

For the epidemiologist, the “big problem” right now is that these data exist and are not available to the international community. “This is, first of all, absolutely essential. Not to mention that they should have been made available years earlier, ”she has criticized. In addition, she recalled that these investigations must be made available to people “who can access them, who can analyze them and who can discuss them among themselves.” “This does not change our approach to study the origins of Covid-19. It only tells us that there is more data, and that it is necessary to share it in its entirety ”, she insisted at the press conference this Friday.

For his part, the executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergencies Program, Michael Ryan, has insisted on the importance of providing more evidence to “allow science to do its job.” “In a puzzle, you know that the more pieces you have in the right place, the more you start to see a picture. But you’re never really sure what you’re building. You are never sure what a piece does until you put it in the context of all the others”, he has exemplified.

“Even as we look back to the early days of this pandemic, we continue to look forward to strengthening the world’s defenses against future epidemics and pandemics. This is something that countries must do together. It is not something that any country can do alone”, Tedros concluded.