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WHO Says 'wet Markets Shouldn't Close' Despite Recognizing Wuhan's Role In COVID Outbreak

A day after WHO scientist Dr. Peter Ben Embarekrecognised the role of Wuhan market in the coronavirus outbreak, he opined, 'such markets should not be shut' 


Even after the World Health Organization (WHO) scientist Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, on Friday, stated that the Wuhan market had a role in the novel coronavirus outbreak, he opined such markets should not be shut globally.

In a press briefing, WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said live animal markets are critical to providing food and livelihoods for millions of people globally and that authorities should focus on improving them rather than outlawing them -- even though they can sometimes spark epidemics in humans. 

He said reducing the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans in these often overcrowded markets could be addressed in many cases by improving hygiene and food safety standards, including separating live animals from humans. He added that it is still unclear whether the market in Wuhan linked to the first several dozens of coronavirus cases in China was the actual source of the virus or merely played a role in spreading the disease further.

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WHO on Wuhan market's role 

WHO scientist Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, on Friday, stated that the Wuhan market had a role in virus outbreak, but more research is needed. Dr. Embarek - who is a WHO expert on food safety and zoonotic viruses, has stated that while the role was clear, its exact role is not clear yet. This is the first statement in which WHO has openly admitted the role of China's Wuhan market in the spread of the pandemic.

 “The market played a role in the event, that’s clear. But what role we don’t know. Whether it was the source or amplifying setting or just a coincidence that some cases were detected in and around that market,” said Dr Peter Ben Embarek in a press briefing.

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He added, "Food safety in these environments is rather difficult and therefore it's not surprising that sometimes we also have these events happening within markets". According to Ben Embarek, it might take considerable time to identify the original animal source for the new coronavirus. Embarek said while China likely has the necessary expertise to conduct such studies and has not noted any problems in China's willingness to collaborate with others.

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China supports pandemic response review

Earlier in the day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that China supports the review of the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but only after the pandemic is over. He added that the review should be conducted in an “open, transparent and inclusive” manner under the leadership of WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Several countries including France and the UK have urged for greater transparency over China’s handling of the virus outbreak while the United States and Australia have demanded an independent investigation into it.

READ | WHO concedes 'Wuhan market had clear role in virus outbreak' as China agrees to probe

US President Donald Trump has slammed the WHO and China claiming that the World Health Organisation (WHO) really blew it. He also slashed the funding to WHO and has hinted at retaliatory tariffs on China. In response, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the United States to join with China in combating the disease rather than indulging in a blame game. Currently, the global Coronavirus cases stand at 3,967,808 with 273,534 deaths.

(with PTI inputs)

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