WHO urges China to be ‘transparent’ in sharing COVID-19 data
Speaking at his latest media briefing, Tedros noted that the world is now in a much better position than ever during a pandemic that has just entered its fourth year.
For the first time, the weekly number of reported deaths in the past four weeks was lower than when the pandemic was first declared.
“I am sure that this year we will be able to say that COVID-19 ended as a public health emergency of international concern,” he said. said.
“Despite the fact that we are increasingly hopeful for the end of the pandemic, the question of how it started remains unanswered,” he added.
Last Sunday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention uploaded data from samples taken from the Huanan market in January 2020 to the GISAID global virus database.
The seafood market is located in Wuhan, the city where the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 first emerged.
Scientists from several countries downloaded and analyzed the data, which was subsequently deleted. They reportedly found molecular evidence that animals were sold on the market, some of which, including raccoon dogs, were susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
No definitive answer
Tedros said WHO contacted the Chinese CDC and encouraged them to share the data with the UN agency and the international scientific community.
On Tuesday, the WHO convened its Scientific Advisory Group on the Origin of New Pathogens (SAGO). Researchers from the Chinese CDC and international scientists were asked to submit their analyses.
“These data do not provide a clear answer to the question of how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important in getting us closer to this answerTedros said.
He stressed that all data regarding the study of the origin of COVID-19 must be immediately transferred to the international community.
Appeal to China
“This data could – and should have – been transferred three years ago,” he said.
“We continue to call on China be transparent in data exchangeand withconduct the necessary investigations And share the results. Understanding how the pandemic began remains moral and scientific imperative,” he added.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 chief, said the agency is already aware of environmental samples from the market that have tested positive, and the latest results offer a “deeper dive” into the information.
“It provides clues … to help us understand what might have happened,” she said. “One of the big pieces of information that we don’t currently have is where these animals came from.”
She said the WHO has repeatedly asked for studies in other markets in Wuhan and across China to trace the animals back to their original farms, as well as serology on people who worked in the markets or on the farms.
In the meantime, the WHO continues to work with international partners to better understand how the pandemic began.
Dr. Van Kerkhove emphasized the importance of sharing data so that international experts can conduct open and transparent analysis, as well as discussions and debates.
“At present, several hypotheses need to be explored, including how the virus entered the human population: either from a bat, via an intermediate host, or by release, breach of biosecurity or biosecurity from the laboratory. AND we don’t have a definitive answer how the pandemic started,” she said.
Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO Emergency Programs, used the analogy of solving a puzzle to explain the complexity of COVID-19 research and the need to have access to all available data.
“This is another piece of the puzzle. This is an important part, but it does not determine what is shown in the picture, he said. let science do its job.“
Dr. Van Herkov was also asked why China removed the data from the virus platform, but she said the matter should indeed be addressed to the country’s CDC.
“We understand that this data was provided by the China CDC as part of their work to write the publication; a publication that was presented last year and exhibited as a preprint. This preview is available,” she said.
“It is our understanding that this document has been updated and resubmitted. And in the resubmission, the CDC of China has posted more of the data available in GISAID.”