The World Health Organization unveiled a team of scientists it wants to revive the stalled inquiry into Covid - 19 s origins with one senior official saying it might be the last chance.
The group of 26 experts will be charged with producing a new global framework for studies into the origins emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential and their remit includes Sars-CoV - 2, the virus that causes Covid - 19.
Michael Ryan, the WHO emergency director, said it may be the last chance to explain the origins of this virus in a collegiate manner.
Christine Tarverkas, WHO s technical lead on Covid - 19, said Maria Van Kerkhove would urgently assess what was known, what remained unknown and what needed to be done.
I anticipate that the Sago will recommend further studies in China and potentially elsewhere, she said. It s no time to waste in this: On Wednesday, Chen Xu, China s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the United Nations Center AIDS Association that Sago should not be politicised. If we are going to send teams to any other places, I believe it s not to China since we have received international teams twice already, he said. It s time to send out teams to other places. In August, China rejected the WHO call for a new inquiry to reveal the origins of Covid 19 on the ground.
Besides the current Covid crisis a growing number of high-risk pathogens have appeared or reappeared in recent years, including middle Eastern respiratory syndrome Mers birds flu viruses, Lassa, Marburg and Ebola.
The WHO announced earlier this year it would set up a scientific advisory group for the origins of novel pathogens Sago. The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while Sars-CoV - 2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. What contaminating ground-water source comes from is essential for maintaining pathogen control in future outbreaks. The 26 members the WHO has selected have been drawn from a field of more than 700 applications and were named from a range of scientific disciplines.
The project is subject to a two week public consultation.
They include Inger Damon, the head of Berlin's Institute for Virology; Yungui Yang of the Beijing Institute of Genomics; Jean-Claude Manuguerra of France's Institut Pasteur and Christian Drosten from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Several of the experts were on the joint WHO-China scientific mission investigating the origins of Covid 19: John Watson, Farag Elmoubasher, Thea Fischer, Marion Koopmans, Hung Nguyen and Vladimir Dedkov.
The terms of reference say the group must give the WHO an independent evaluation of all available scientific and technical findings from global studies on the origins of Covid 19 - 9.
It should also advise the UN health agency on developing, monitoring and supporting the next series of studies to identify the first cause of the virus. That could include additional advice on the WHO s operational plans to implement the next series of studies about the pandemic origins, and support for rapid studies.
The pandemic has killed more than 4.85 million people and battered the global economy since the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.
After much delay, a WHO team of Chinese experts went to Wuhan in January 2021 to produce a first phase report, written in conjunction with international counterparts. Their March report ranked no firm conclusions, but drew four hypotheses.
The most probable was that the virus jumped for an intermediate animal to humans, it said. The investigation considers a leak from the Wuhan virology laboratories extremely unlikely However, it faced criticism for lacking transparency and access, and for not evaluating the lab-leak theory more deeply.