According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a newly formed task force could be the “last chance” to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus.
The United Nations health agency on Wednesday named a new panel of 26 experts to form the Scientific Advisory Group on the Origin of Novel Pathogens (Sago), to evaluate key and widely discussed theories about how SARS- The cov-2 virus, which causes covid-19 disease, originated.
The task force will examine two prevailing theories of the virus’s origin, including whether it jumped from animals to humans or if it was leaked in a laboratory accident.
“This is our best chance, and it may be our last chance to understand the origins of this virus,” said Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert.
The WHO wanted to “take a step back, create an environment where we can look at scientific issues again,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.
At least six of the experts nominated for Sago visited China in an earlier investigation aimed at tracing the origins of the coronavirus.
Under increasing pressure to find out where and how the virus emerged, the WHO last year began talks with China to launch an investigation.
A team of 10 researchers set up by the WHO visited Wuhan, China, in January this year, more than a year after the first Covid cases were identified there.
The group concluded that the coronavirus probably came from bats, but said more work is needed to understand it. The lab leak theory – suggesting that the virus had leaked into a lab in Wuhan – was “extremely improbable”, the team had said.
However, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it would be premature to rule out a possible link between the coronavirus and the lab leak theory.
Mr Ghebreyesus said access to raw data in China was a challenge for the international team and asked the Asian country to be more transparent in the investigation.
China said in August that it was against calls for a fresh investigation into the origins of Covid-19 and said it supported “scientific” efforts to trace the origins of the virus to “political”.
Responding to Sago’s formation, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Chen Xu, said the task force’s work should not be politicized, saying he called for investigations into “other places”.
“I believe that if we are going to continue with scientific research, I think it should be a joint effort based on science, not by intelligence agencies,” Mr. Chen said. “So if we’re going to talk about anything, we’re doing the whole business within the framework of Sago,” he said.
The Sago Task Force has also been mandated to look into the origins of other high-risk pathogens. Mr Ghebreyesus said understanding new pathogens was essential to prevent future disease outbreaks.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /