The team had reached Wuhan in mid-January following extensive negotiations with China. (Image: AP)
WHO probe in Wuhan: A team of scientists sent by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is probing the origin of coronavirus in China’s Wuhan, where the first cases of COVID-19 emerged in December 2019. The team had reached Wuhan in mid-January following extensive negotiations with China that spanned over months, and once they reached the Chinese city, they remained in a two-week quarantine. The team has been conducting the investigation based on the evidence that China has been providing and based on their visits to some key locations associated with the spread of the pandemic in the city. And now, the team has found some important clues into the role of a seafood market in the spread of the pandemic.
While team experts have said that they have uncovered important clues, they have refused to elaborate on what these clues are until the official is released, likely some time this month. The purpose of this mission is to understand how the virus transmitted from animals to humans, since the closest known relative of this virus came from bats who are not even native to Wuhan. WHO wanted to understand what happened in Wuhan so such a widespread outbreak can be prevented in the future.
The experts stated that they have three different threads as a part of the investigation. One of them came from the genetic sequencing data that is trying to identify the links of similarities between the patients and wildlife, the second being important insights from the visit to Huanan fresh produce market where seafood is sold majorly. This market was the early focus of the outbreak of cases, which were reported in workers and shoppers, indicating that the virus jumped from the seafood sold here to the patients who consumed it. The third thread is the fact that the earliest cases reported of the virus had no link to the market, which led to the undermining of this theory.
Linking together of these three threads is likely to provide researchers with a deeper insight into what led to the outbreak that has caused over 10 crore infections and over 23 lakh deaths across the world.
There were also suspicions that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is a maximum bio-containment laboratory where bat-borne diseases are studied. However, scientists have refuted this theory.
Notably, numerous countries across the world, led by former US President Donald Trump and supported by Australia, called for investigation into China’s role in the spread of the virus that also caused the world to come to a halt for about a quarter of the last year, and led to economic decline in about 90% of the countries in the world. Trump had accused China of not properly handling the virus, which he said could have been contained if China had not tried to cover up the initial cases.