A team of experts from the World Health Organization will be going to China this month to investigate the origin of the novel coronavirus pandemic but people should have “very low” expectations that the visit will be enough for the global health body to come to a conclusion about the role of the Chinese authorities in the origin and spread of the pandemic within and outside of China, said a health expert affiliated with the WHO.
“I would be inclined to set the expectations of a conclusion very low for this visit,” Dr. Dale Fisher, chair of the Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network coordinated by the WHO, said in an interview on Monday at the Reuters Next conference.
According to Chinese authorities, a team of international health and epidemiology experts from the WHO will reach China on January 14 for the investigation. However no details of the itinerary of the WHO team was provided by China’s National Health Commission which announced the arrival date, even though the arrival was postponed from its early January schedule.
Several accusations have been made against Chinese authorities of covering up the delayed initial response to the pandemic which allegedly allowed the virus to spread throughout the world since it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Calls for a “transparent” WHO-led investigation has been made by the United States while also criticising the terms and conditions imposed on the WHO’s investigating team which included the first phase of preliminary research being done by Chinese scientists.
“I think it’s an important meeting but it shouldn’t be overrated in terms of an outcome this time,” said Fisher, who took part in a WHO mission to Wuhan last year.
Fisher, who is also a professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore, said that the experts from the WHO going to China will initially hold meetings with their Chinese counterparts and exchange notes and decide on what data had been gathered by the Chinese scientists and the WHP team and what further studies that will be needed to have been done.
While he does not expect that the initial visit to China by the WHO experts will provide all the answers to the questions raised, Fisher the chances of identifying the origin of the pandemic are much higher than what was possible a year ago because experts are now more knowledgeable about the data that they will be required to collect based on the information of the virus and the pandemic that they already have. For example, antibody studies from residual serums in other countries will provide clues about the answers to many questions.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)