Discovering Origins of COVID-19 Will Continue, WHO Says

The origin of COVID-19 has been a major question asked by many around the world, but its progress by the World Health Organization has come under fire after a recently released article.

Key takeaways:

The WHO has decided to shelve its second-phase study discovering the COVID-19 origins. However, those claims have been refuted by the WHO.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many across the entire globe. According to the WHO, there have been over 6,844,000 deaths due to COVID-19 worldwide.

A recent Nature article highlighted the WHO’s struggle to receive Chinese cooperation in uncovering the COVID-19 origin, ultimately leading to the end of their search for COVID origins. But in a press conference on February 15, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, refuted Nature’s reporting.

"This is an error in reporting, which is really quite concerning because it’s causing some headlines that are inaccurate," Van Kerkhove said. "I think we need to be perfectly clear that WHO has not abandoned studying the origins of COVID-19, we have not and we will not."

The WHO affirmed its plans all along have been to discover the origins of COVID-19, and that it has been in contact with its member states over the matter,

Van Kerkhove said their phase-two plans for discovering the origin of COVID-19 have shifted. The responsibility now weighs on the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO).

If SAGO is to make substantial progress on discovering the origins of COVID-19, Van Kerkhove confirmed cooperation from China will be needed. WHO General Director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, emphasized the finding of COVID’s origin as a scientific and moral necessity.

"But let me also be very clear that we continue to ask for more cooperation and collaboration with our colleagues in China to advance studies that need to take place in China, studies that were recommended from the March 2021 WHO report, from the June 2022 SAGO report, and studies that we’ve been recommending, studies at the animal-human interface and markets, on farms," Van Kerkhove said. "These studies need to be conducted in China and we need cooperation from our colleagues there to advance our understandings."

The WHO released a detailed phase-one report in 2021 explaining the possible origins of COVID-19. Their research included four different pathways of possible emergence.

WHO COVID-19 origin prospects:

  1. Direct zoonotic transmission – The transmission of the virus from an animal reservoir host to a human. This possible origin was deemed as possible to likely.
  2. Introduction through intermediate host followed by zoonotic transmission – In this theory, a significant number of animals obtained COVID-19, which then spilled over into the human population. The WHO report sees this possibility as likely to very likely.
  3. Introduction through the cold/food chain – Contamination of food and food containers in the cold/food chain. The level of evidence for this origin was deemed possible.
  4. Introduction through a laboratory incident – The idea that COVID-19 escaped a laboratory involving scientific activity. It was deemed unlikely from the WHO’s origin report.

Like the rest of the globe, the United States was dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been over one million deaths due to the virus since its origin in 2020.

The U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) has released a declassified assessment of COVID-19’s origin based on information through August 2021. The NIC could confirm the virus was not developed as a biological weapon by their assessment. Also, the NIC points out that Chinese officials were unaware of the virus before its outbreak. President Joe Biden addressed the need for Chinese cooperation in a White House statement on August 27, 2021.

"Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China, yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it," Biden said. "To this day, the PRC continues to reject calls for transparency and withhold information, even as the toll of this pandemic continues to rise. We needed this information rapidly, from the PRC, while the pandemic was still new."

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