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WHO official calls China’s failure to share Covid-19 origin data ‘inexcusable’

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(, Apr07’23) – In one of its most damning allegations in the fight against the Covid-19 global pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called China’s lack of cooperation thus far inexcusable.

The WHO still does not have key data from China about the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak, putting the world in jeopardy, the Apr 6 cited Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the group’s Covid-19 technical lead and head of its programme on emerging diseases, as saying.

“The lack of data disclosure is simply inexcusable,” Van Kerkhove has written in an editorial in the journal Science on Jun 6.

“The longer it takes to understand the origins of the pandemic, the harder it becomes to answer the question, and the more unsafe the world becomes.”

Understanding how the disease emerged in Wuhan, China, in Dec 2019 would help prevent future outbreaks, Van Kerkhove has said.

It was only this year, three years after the start of the pandemic, that WHO got access to certain data that Chinese scientists had gathered in early 2020 at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. The raw genetic sequences from the samples had recently been uploaded to the data-sharing site GISAID. They were soon removed, but quick-thinking researchers had already noticed them and downloaded them for further study, the report said.

Although the sequences showed that raccoon dogs could have been an intermediate host and that the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan amplified the spread of the virus, the data did not show that people who interacted with those animals got sick through that exposure. In other words, the findings did not settle the question of how the pandemic started, the report said.

To do so, scientists would need to trace the animals to the source of the virus. WHO also needs access to test results from workers at the market. However, three years later, Van Kerkhove has said, WHO still does not have access to the raw data China collected from early Covid-19 cases.

With China’s advanced technical capabilities, she firmly believes, it has more essential information that it is not sharing.

Van Kerkhove has said China also could have more unshared information about things like the wild and farmed animal trade, the testing of humans and animals in Wuhan and across China, the operations of labs in Wuhan that worked with coronaviruses, and the first cases.

However, its failure to share information only fuels politicization of the origin of the virus, the report cited Van Kerkhove as saying.

In March, Van Kerkhove described to Science WHO’s late discovery of the Chinese data about the market as “beyond infuriating,” calling the lack of collaboration “scary as hell.”

With or without China’s cooperation, WHO plans to publish a status report about what it knows about the origins of Covid-19 this year.


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