Scientists slam China's 'implausibly' slow investigation of Covid-19

Scientists slam China’s ‘implausibly’ slow investigation of Covid-19 as WHO panel ‘has to recommend contact tracing of patient zero and wet market suppliers’

  • WHO report will recommend contact tracing first known patient in Wuhan, China
  • Also suggests looking into supply chain of traders in the Huanan seafood market
  • Comes after team of scientists visited Wuhan to investigate origins of Covid-19
  • But the trip was criticised for not coming back with any conclusive findings 

Scientists have criticised the slow pace of China’s investigation into the origins of Covid-19 as ‘implausible’, as reports claim that the ‘patient zero’ was not properly contact traced.

A World Health Organisation report is set to recommend extensive contact tracing of the first known patient in Wuhan, China, as well as the supply chain of traders in the city’s Huanan seafood market.

The ‘wet’ market – where exotic live animals were traded – is believed to have played a key role in the early spread of the virus in late 2019.

But independent scientists have said they can’t understand why Chinese scientists had not done the recommended investigative work months ago.

Scientists have criticised the slow pace of China’s investigation into the origins of Covid-19 as ‘implausible’, as reports claim that the ‘patient zero’ was not properly contact traced

Professor Maureen Miller, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Columbia University, said: ‘It’s implausible that this research has not been done. It’s not realistic, given they have world-class scientists there, and the technology invested in over the last 20 years.

Miller, who was shown a copy of the to-be-published report by CNN, said the first patient’s infection on December 8 without direct contact with the wet market or travel shows there was already community transmission. 

‘In the short and long term, it is detrimental to China to try to hide the fact that this virus started in China and was exported around the world,’ she told the website.

Professor Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it was surprising China ‘hasn’t invested in investigating two important clues like that.’

A team of 10 WHO scientists travelled to Wuhan in January – over a year after the first infection – to carry out an independent investigation of the virus’ origins

He added the country had recently mobilised the entire city of Beijing to find the source of a Covid-19 outbreak.

‘They have top-notch scientists, who are much more knowledgeable than most in terms of recognising the importance of this information,’ he said.

Huang added that the WHO recommendations showed they were ‘uncovering some interesting information tracing of the origins of the virus.’

A team of 10 WHO scientists travelled to Wuhan in January – over a year after the first infection – to carry out an independent investigation of the virus’ origins.

But unable to provide any significant findings, the group’s trip was criticised as a ‘charade’, and US officials in the Trump administration accused China of trying to hide information from them.

WHO scientists have since said they were unable to rule out that the virus had escaped from a lab, or that the first infection came from inside China. 

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) told reporters that an independent report on the coronavirus’ origins ‘doesn’t mean bowing to the Western approach towards China based on presumption of guilt’

However they have managed to discover several signs that there was a much wider outbreak in December 2019 than was reported earlier.

The leader of the WHO mission, Peter Ben Embarek, declined to comment on the details of any further contact tracing or testing that could be recommended. He told CNN: ‘Further studies are needed.’ 

On February 18, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) told reporters that an independent report on the coronavirus’ origins ‘doesn’t mean bowing to the Western approach towards China based on presumption of guilt.’

Chunying added: ‘China has conducted a very thorough, professional, science-based study with the WHO experts,’ and insisted the WHO panel was satisfied with China’s cooperation.

She continued to push for studies of the virus’s emergence outside of China – a claim for which there is little evidence. 

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