A joint team of the World Health Organisation and Chinese expert mission who presided over the investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday declared that the evidence to determine that coronavirus was being spread in China’s central Wuhan before December 2019 was insufficient and inconclusive.
In a press briefing, Liang Wannian, head of Chinese expert mission, claimed that there was “not enough evidence” to determine if the virus had spread in the city prior to December 2019. “There is no indication of the transmission of the Sars-Cov-2 in the population of the period before Dec 2019,” Wannian said.
Ben Embarek of the WHO team that collaborated with the Chinese expert mission said that the focus of the study was to determine if coronavirus had ‘previous history’ and was in circulation before December 2019.
In an attempt to deflect the blame of endowing the world with a deadly contagion, the Chinese expert even suggested that the coronavirus might have originated outside China. The Chinese Health Commission expert also contended that the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 could have been circulating in other regions before it was detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
The WHO scientists also asserted that the global health body’s mission to China to probe the origins of the coronavirus has failed to detect the animal source. However, ever since the pandemic swept the globe, scores of scientists and epidemiologists have consistently claimed that the coronavirus might have originated in bats and could have jumped to humans via another mammal.
Wannian said the transmission from animals was the likely route of the emergence of the infection but so far “the reservoir hosts remain to be identified”. He also added that the studies have demonstrated that the virus could be carried long-distance on cold chain products, alluding to the possible importation of the virus—a hypothesis vigorously peddled by China after it was blamed for the lack of transparency and its shoddy handling of the initial outbreak.
China drew flak for downplaying the COVID-19 pandemic
China faced severe criticism for allegedly understating the severity of the initial outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in late December 2019 and not being entirely forthcoming to alert the WHO of human-to-human transmission. As a result, the virus spread like a wildfire, jumping from one place to another and within no time, a legion of countries across the world started reporting the COVID-19 flare-ups.
As the coronavirus continued its relentless assault, the international clamour for an impartial inquiry into the origins of the virus gained momentum. After initially blocking an independent investigation into the pandemic, China agreed to have a fact-finding mission probe into the emergence of the pandemic, although the team was accompanied by a group of Chinese experts.
The team arrived in Wuhan last month, on January 14, and after two weeks of quarantine, visited key areas such as the Huanan wet market, which was linked to earlier outbreaks, as well as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an institute widely suspected of being involved in inorganically developing the coronavirus. The first cases of a pneumonia-like illness were reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, a central Chinese city with a population of over 11 million people.
WHO accused of conniving with China to understate the coronavirus outbreak
While the joint team of WHO and Chinese experts gave a clean chit to China and claimed that the evidence to link the origins of coronavirus to China was not sufficient, it is noteworthy to mention that the WHO and China have been accused of working in cahoots with each other after the coronavirus spread across the world.
According to a report published by The Hill in July 2020, it was alleged that Tedros, the WHO chief, not only turned a blind eye to what happened in Wuhan but also, after meeting with Xi in January, helped China to play down the severity, prevalence and the amplitude of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. It was also being alleged that the WHO Director-General defended China despite its gross mismanagement of the highly contagious disease.
Even though the deadly disease had met the criteria like the transmission between people, high fatality rates and worldwide spread, WHO, which is the apex body responsible for public health, took months to declare the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic.
The report threw light on the secret behind the cosy and symbiotic relationship between China and the World Health Organisation chief. China had reportedly pledged $20 million to help the WHO fight the COVID-19 outbreak, for which Tedros, the former minister of health and minister of foreign affairs for Ethiopia now the WHO chief, thanked Xi. The report divulged that China had invested heavily in Ethiopia, which is Tedros’s homeland. Ethiopia, now called East Africa’s “Little China” is China’s bridgehead to influence Africa and a key to China’s Belt and Road initiative there. This is the reason which deliberated Tedros to publicly praise the country, even though China knowingly misled the world, the report surmised.