No definitive answer: WHO calls on China to release data linking Covid origin to Wuhan

The World Health Organisation has called on China to release all data related to the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic after new research. The WHO chief stressed that all data relating to studying the origins of Covid needs to be shared with the international community immediately.

India Today News Desk

New Delhi,UPDATED: Mar 19, 2023 08:14 IST

The building of Huanan seafood market, where the second floor remains open for optics stores, and where coronavirus believed to have first surfaced (Photo: Reuters/File)

By India Today News Desk: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on China to release new data linking the Covid pandemic’s origins to animal samples at Wuhan Market. This comes after new findings were briefly shared on an international database used to track pathogens and China’s recent decision to take down the research.

According to WHO, new sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and additional genomic data based on samples taken from a live animal market in Wuhan in 2020 were briefly uploaded to the GISAID database by Chinese scientists.

Researchers from several countries downloaded and analysed the data before it was removed, according to the statement from the WHO’s Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO). The findings were presented to the WHO last weekend.

The researchers found molecular evidence that raccoon dogs and other animals susceptible to Covid were sold at the market and may have also been infected by the coronavirus, providing a new clue in the chain of transmission that eventually reached humans, reported news agency Reuters.

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“Even as we become increasingly hopeful about the end of the pandemic, the question of how it began remains unanswered,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Tedros said WHO contacted the Chinese CDC and urged them to share the data with the UN agency and the international scientific community.

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“These data do not provide a definitive answer to the question of how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important in moving us closer to that answer,” said Tedros.

He stressed that all data relating to studying the origins of Covid-19 needs to be shared with the international community immediately.

“These data could have – and should have – been shared three years ago,” he said.

“We continue to call on China to be transparent in sharing data, and to conduct the necessary investigations and share the results. Understanding how the pandemic began remains both a moral and scientific imperative,” he added.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was shut down by Chinese authorities after the novel coronavirus emerged in the city in late 2019. The market has since been a focus of study of whether the virus had infected several other species before jumping to humans.

The WHO and other scientists have also said they cannot rule out the possibility that the virus emerged from a high-security laboratory in Wuhan that studies dangerous pathogens. China denies any such link.

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The new analysis suggests “that raccoon dog and other animals may have been present before the market was cleaned as part of the public health intervention,” the SAGO statement said.

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(With agency inputs)

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