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After WHO's Inconclusive Probe, Scientific Community Demands Scrutiny On COVID-19 Origins

As COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the world with over 16 crore infections and more than 30 lakh deaths globally, the origins of COVID-19 still remain elusive


As the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world with over 16 crore infections and more than 30 lakh deaths globally, the origins of the pandemic still remains elusive. The origins of COVID-19 which was first detected in Wuhan, China still manages to be a mystery with conspiracy theories floating around that the virus was transmitted from bats to humans in Wuhan's wet market while others claim it to be a man-made virus developed in the Wuhan laboratory.

Although the World Health Organisation has absolved China for the COVID-19 woes the world is facing, yet several countries have taken up against China for being discreet over its handling of the Coronavirus that led to the virus becoming a global-scale catastrophe. Due to the inconclusive investigation of the WHO into the origins of the virus, the world struggles to find closure as to where and how did the virus originate.

The scientific community around the world have questioned the origins of the virus on multiple occasions. Recently, 18 top scientists wrote an open letter to the scientific community at large to remind people that the findings of the WHO investigation were inadequate and that the data gathering was credible and not as per scientific methods.

One of the 18 scientists who wrote the letter, Dr Ravindra Gupta - Professor of Clinical Microbiology from the University of Cambridge has spoken to Republic TV in this regard.

''Speaking on the WHO investigation into COVID origins in China, a number of countries and Head of WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus himself mentioned that the investigation did not meet the acceptable standards,'' said Dr Gupta.

The letter by the 18 scientists says that all the information and data gathering in the WHO investigation was conducted by the Chinese members of the experts' team sent by WHO. The scientific community called for governments across the world to come together and question the origins of the virus as scientists cannot alone dig into the root of the global mess.

"There is a possibility of selection of certain bits of data and exclusion of others. We can't tell. We needed to have records of scientists who were in that (Chinese) research facility, open to scrutiny without any modification so that everybody knows what virus were being manipulated. And to have a proper view of what work was going on there because they were clearly working on Coronaviruses but the team was not able to access freely unrestricted data," Dr Gupta said.

Independent panel calls for more power to WHO to probe pandemic origins

A panel of independent experts who reviewed the World Health Organization's (WHO) response to the Coronavirus pandemic said the world health body should be granted guaranteed access rights in countries across the world to probe the emerging outbreaks of virus and diseases. This assumes significance in light of WHO repeatedly absolving China for its response against the COVID-19 pandemic and on alerting the world about the deadly virus. However, an Associated Press investigation found officials privately criticising China for being discreet about its virus spread and not sharing the vital information which could have been instrumental in world response against the pandemic. The devastating spread of COVID-19 across the globe has dented WHO's credibility owing to its slow response to the pandemic.

China's hesitancy to probe on COVID-19 origins

After the COVID-19 wreaked havoc on almost all the countries across the globe in 2020, more than 120 member nations of the UN called for an independent investigation into the COVID-19 origins in China despite China's objection to the probe. The probe was proposed by Australia, backed by the European Union and later supported by a number of other member nations of the UN. The geopolitical ramifications of the calls for COVID-19 investigation led to the relations of China with the US and Australia stooping to an all-time low with trade wars among others. 

Due to China's hesitancy and delay in granting permission to the probe even after immense international pressure, the team of WHO experts visited China in mid-January this year, even as the virus began causing havoc in late 2019. Even as China maintained that the virus originated elsewhere while it was first detected in Wuhan (an argument rejected by the world) China even refused to hand over key data to the WHO team investigating the origins of COVID-19, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the global pandemic began. WHO Chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said his team suffered rejections from China in accessing "raw data on early COVID-19 cases", while adding that more "collaborative studies" are required with "more timely and comprehensive data sharing".

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