World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday (local time) said that the organization will continue pushing until it finds an answer to how the Covid-19 pandemic started, following a report suggesting it had abandoned the search.
"We need to continue to push until we get the answer," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, referring to the search for the origins of the virus that first began spreading in China in late 2019.
Solving the mystery of where the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from and how it began spreading among humans is considered vital for averting future pandemics.
"Knowing how this pandemic started is very, very important and very crucial," said Ghebreyesus.
Notably, the WHO chief statement comes after an article on the Nature website alleged that the organization is faced with a lack of cooperation from China, where the outbreak began in late 2019, and the WHO had given up on the search.
Ghebreyesus said he had recently sent a letter to a top official in China "asking for cooperation because we need cooperation and transparency in the information... in order to know how this started."
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The two main theories that have been hotly debated have centred on the virus naturally spilling over from bats to an intermediary animal and into humans or The Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) was created "to conduct an independent assessment of the origins of COVID-19, but also to work more broadly to establish a framework to understand the origins of any future epidemic and pandemic pathogen, and the origins in which it emerges," said Van Kerkhove, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist; COVID-19 Technical Lead, Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
"We will continue to ask for countries to depoliticize this work, but we need cooperation from our colleagues in China to advance this," she said.
Tedros said there were two reasons for not abandoning the origins search.
The first was scientific, he said: "We need to know how this started in order to prevent the next one."
"The second (is) moral: millions of people lost their lives, and many suffered, and the whole world was taken hostage by a virus. "It's morally very important to know how we lost our loved ones," added WHO chief.
The WHO carried out the first phase of the investigation by sending a team of international experts to Wuhan, China, in January 2021 to produce a first-phase report, written in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts.
While the initial plan had been to send a second team, Van Kerkhove said the WHO had shifted tactics and decided instead to create a team of scientists with an expanded scope to investigate new pathogens and study how to prevent future pandemics, while continuing to probe COVID-19's origins.
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