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Experts On WHO Team Say Search For COVID Origins Has Stalled

In a commentary published in the journal Nature, the WHO-recruited experts said the COVID origins investigation is at a critical juncture requiring urgent collaboration but has instead come to a standstill

Experts On WHO Team Say Search For COVID Origins Has Stalled
Highlights
  • Earlier in 2021, WHO sent a team of experts to Wuhan to probe the pandemic
  • The WHO team concluded the virus probably jumped to humans from animals
  • The possibility of a laboratory leak extremely unlikely, WHO team had said

London: The international scientists dispatched to China by the World Health Organisation to find out where the coronavirus came from said Wednesday (August 25) the search has stalled and warned that the window of opportunity for solving the mystery is ‘closing fast’. Meanwhile, a U.S. intelligence review ordered up by President Joe Biden proved inconclusive about the virus’s origin, including whether it jumped from an animal to a human or escaped from a Chinese lab, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Also Read: Focus Should Be On Vaccinating Everybody, Booster Doses Can Wait: AIIMS Chief

In a commentary published in the journal Nature, the WHO-recruited experts said the origins investigation is at a critical juncture requiring urgent collaboration but has instead come to a standstill. They noted among other things that Chinese officials are still reluctant to share some raw data, citing concerns over patient confidentiality.

Earlier this year, WHO sent a team of experts to Wuhan, where the first human COVID-19 cases were detected in December 2019, to probe what might have triggered the pandemic now blamed for nearly 4.5 million deaths worldwide, with more than 10,000 people a day succumbing despite more than 5 billion doses of vaccine administered.

In their analysis, published in March, the WHO team concluded the virus probably jumped to humans from animals, and they described the possibility of a laboratory leak as ‘extremely unlikely’. But the WHO experts said their report was intended only as a first step and added,

The window of opportunity for conducting this crucial inquiry is closing fast: any delay will render some of the studies biologically impossible.

Also Read: WHO’s Team Tracing the Origin Of COVID-19 Is Back From China; Experts Explain Why It Is Important To Find The Source Of The Outbreak

For example, they said, “Antibodies wane, so collecting further samples and testing people who might have been exposed before December 2019 will yield diminishing returns.”

China said Wednesday that officials should “concentrate on other possible avenues that may help trace the origin” of COVID-19 and suggested studies should be pursued in other countries.

Fu Cong, a director-general in China’s Foreign Ministry, agreed it was a pity the search for COVID-19’s origins had stalled but said it wasn’t China’s fault.

China has always supported and will continue to participate in the science-based origin tracing efforts, he said.

He accused the U.S. of hyping the lab leak theory and trying to shift the blame onto China, and implied the coronavirus might be linked to high-level American research labs, suggesting the United States invite WHO to investigate some of its installations.

Marion Koopmans and her WHO-recruited colleagues listed a number of priorities for further research, including conducting wider antibody surveys that might identify places where COVID-19 was spreading undetected, both in China and beyond, testing wild bats and farm-raised animals as potential reservoirs of the virus, and investigating any credible new leads.

Also Read: Protection From Pfizer And AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 Vaccine Wanes Within Six Months: UK Study

Some other scientists fear the best opportunities to collect samples might have been missed during the first few weeks after some of the earliest human cases appeared linked to a Wuhan seafood market. Chinese researchers collected hundreds of environmental samples immediately after the coronavirus was found, but it is unclear how many people or animals were tested.

Once you have wildlife traders shifting over to other kinds of employment because they’re worried about whether they’ll be able to do this anymore, that window starts to close, said Maciej Boni, a Pennsylvania State University biology professor who has studied virus origins and was not part of the WHO team.

Still, Mr Boni said scientists might be able to pinpoint COVID-19’s animal source by hunting for closely related viruses in species like raccoon dogs, mink or ground squirrels. But he said it could take about five years to do the kind of extensive studies necessary. The search for COVID-19’s origins has become a bitter source of dispute between the U.S. and China, with increasing numbers of American experts calling for the two Wuhan laboratories close to the seafood market to be investigated, something China has flatly rejected and branded scapegoating.

Mr Biden in May ordered a 90-day review by U.S. intelligence agencies of both the animal-to-human hypothesis and the lab-leak theory. In July, even WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gheybreyesus said it was premature to have rejected the lab theory, adding that research accidents are common.

Also Read: Covid Antibody That Protects Against Broad Range Of Variants Identified

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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World

26,43,68,460Cases
22,50,84,762Active
3,40,45,666Recovered
52,38,032Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 196 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 26,43,68,460 and 52,38,032 have died; 22,50,84,762 are active cases and 3,40,45,666 have recovered as on December 3, 2021 at 1:36 pm.

India

3,46,15,757 9,216Cases
99,976 213Active
3,40,45,666 8,612Recovered
4,70,115 391Deaths
In India, there are 3,46,15,757 confirmed cases including 4,70,115 deaths. The number of active cases is 99,976 and 3,40,45,666 have recovered as on December 3, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

66,37,221 796

10,882 180

64,85,290 952

1,41,049 24

Kerala

51,51,919 4,700

45,030 252

50,66,034 4,128

40,855 320

Karnataka

29,96,833 363

6,772 169

29,51,845 191

38,216 3

Tamil Nadu

27,28,350 715

8,155 45

26,83,691 748

36,504 12

Andhra Pradesh

20,73,252 159

2,138 11

20,56,670 169

14,444 1

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,417 12

93 1

16,87,413 11

22,911

West Bengal

16,17,408 657

7,690 22

15,90,208 667

19,510 12

Delhi

14,41,190 217

307 21

14,15,785 196

25,098

Odisha

10,49,597 252

2,211 26

10,38,971 276

8,415 2

Chhattisgarh

10,06,870 37

328 12

9,92,949 25

13,593

Rajasthan

9,54,827 21

213 10

9,45,659 11

8,955

Gujarat

8,27,570 50

318 25

8,17,158 24

10,094 1

Madhya Pradesh

7,93,199 12

128 4

7,82,543 8

10,528

Haryana

7,71,760 27

178 9

7,61,528 18

10,054

Bihar

7,26,230 5

32 0

7,16,534 4

9,664 1

Telangana

6,76,376 189

3,680 50

6,68,701 137

3,995 2

Assam

6,17,163 124

2,535 77

6,08,517 198

6,111 3

Punjab

6,03,352 32

344 13

5,86,402 18

16,606 1

Jharkhand

3,49,271 15

95 1

3,44,035 13

5,141 1

Uttarakhand

3,44,325 22

182 4

3,36,735 18

7,408

Jammu And Kashmir

3,37,263 177

1,697 10

3,31,089 167

4,477

Himachal Pradesh

2,27,354 85

835 29

2,22,669 113

3,850 1

Goa

1,79,046 56

367 40

1,75,295 16

3,384

Mizoram

1,35,765 315

3,717 55

1,31,545 368

503 2

Puducherry

1,28,998 33

299 10

1,26,826 23

1,873

Manipur

1,25,269 33

663 4

1,22,627 28

1,979 1

Tripura

84,835 15

94 6

83,916 8

825 1

Meghalaya

84,534 24

296 2

82,764 25

1,474 1

Chandigarh

65,475 4

65 1

64,590 5

820

Arunachal Pradesh

55,285 6

36 1

54,969 5

280

Sikkim

32,267 15

137 10

31,727 5

403

Nagaland

32,128 3

128 5

31,302 6

698 2

Ladakh

21,642 41

306 21

21,122 20

214

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,683

0 1

10,679 1

4

Lakshadweep

10,397 1

18 8

10,328 9

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,686 3

7 2

7,550 1

129

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