WHO has assigned a group of 26 experts to produce a new global framework of studies into the origins of emerging pathogens, in an effort to revive the stalled inquiry into COVID-19 origin. The global body believes investigation is the one of the ways to prevent future pandemics.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO chief, said the emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-Co-V-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last. “Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks.”
The new team of scientists is subject to a two-week public consultation. Several of the experts were on the joint WHO-China scientific mission investigating the origins of COVID-19 – Vladimir Dedkov, Farag Elmoubasher, Thea Fischer, Marion Koopmans, Hung Nguyen and John Watson. The group will give WHO an independent evaluation of all available scientific and technical findings from global studies on the origins of COVID-19.
It will also advise the UN health agency on developing, monitoring and supporting the next series of studies into the origins of the virus. That could include rapid advice on the WHO’s operational plans to implement the next series of studies into the pandemic’s origins, and advice an additional studies.
Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies director, said it may be the last chance to understand the origins of this virus in a collegiate manner. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (Sago) would urgently assess what was now known, what still remained unknown, and what rapidly needed to be done. “I anticipate that the Sago will recommend further studies in China and potentially elsewhere,” she said. “There’s no time to waste in this.”
In August, China had rejected the WHO’s calls for a renewed inquiry on the ground into the origins of COVID-19. Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, on Wednesday told the UN correspondents’ association that Sago’s work should not be ‘politicized’. “If we are going to send teams to any other places, I believe it’s not to China because we have received international teams twice already,” he said. “It’s time to send teams to other places.”