Further origin-tracing of COVID-19 must follow the first phase WHO report

By Md Enamul Hassan (People's Daily Online) 16:27, August 30, 2021

For scientists and experts, it is essential to trace the origins of a virus to better understand and deal more effectively with the virus. Therefore, both are now trying to trace the origins of COVID-19. The scientists and experts led by the World Health Organization (WHO) have said that they must try and understand its origins and determine how the virus was disseminated in order to contain further infections and future epidemics.

They also believe that it is necessary to trace the virus back to its starting point to develop better therapeutic and vaccination strategies and prevent future zoonosis transmission. The origin-tracing task is also important to understand how the disease spread and which animals pose a risk of infection. Keeping these scientific suppositions in mind, China wholeheartedly cooperated with the WHO, which finally drew up its first report on the origin-tracing of COVID-19 after a full investigation, with the title of this article also making mention of this first phase WHO report.

A medical worker administers a dose of COVID-19 vaccine for a student at a vaccination site in Jinfeng district of Yinchuan, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Aug. 15, 2021. (Xinhua/Feng Kaihua)

But the US and its allies are pressuring the WHO to launch a second phase of origin-tracing research in China. The WHO Secretariat, giving in to the illegitimate pressure, announced a proposal in this regard. I personally found the WHO Secretariat’s submission to the pressure not only absurd but also a reneging of the UN health agency’s own words as international experts and the WHO itself repeatedly said that China has always participated in international origin-tracing cooperation with an open attitude.

The first phase report was not a joke. The WHO experts were invited to China twice to conduct joint research on origin-tracing, and great efforts were made to this end. The experts went wherever they wanted to go and met all the people they wanted to meet. After a 28-day field visit to China at the beginning of the year, in March this year, the WHO issued a joint research report – the first phase WHO report. The report concluded that “a laboratory leak in Wuhan is extremely unlikely”. The report also put forward important suggestions such as “searching for possible early cases worldwide”.

The conclusion of the report on the origins of the virus is a scientific, objective, and authoritative one drawn by the WHO experts after a large amount of serious and meticulous research work, which has already been recognized by the international and scientific communities.

Therefore, the international community must defend and preserve the recommendations and conclusions of the first phase report. They must also confirm that the recommendations and conclusions should be an important foundation for the next stage of global origin-tracing work. The world also believes that the WHO will never eat a humble pie by belittling its first phase report. If it does so, the organization will be like a washed dog that just returns back into the mud again.

Apart from defending and preserving the first phase report on origin-tracing, the international community must keep some important factors in mind to this end.

The origin-tracing task should care about just and rational global voices

The purpose of tracing the origins of the virus is to clarify the origins of the virus so that effective measures can be taken to prevent similar epidemics from recurring, and not to levy blame on a country, let alone dividing up the international community. Therefore, attempts and actions to stigmatize the epidemic’s origins and politicize the origin-tracing process are resolutely being opposed by the international community. More than 60 countries have already written to the WHO, agreeing with the first phase origins-tracing research results and opposing the politicization of origin-tracing work.

Many government officials, experts, and scholars from across the globe have recently spoken out, demanding a comprehensive and scientific reflection of the origin-tracing process and opposing its politicization and stigmatization. Many countries have clearly stated that the WHO Secretariat proposal on the second phase research in China does not meet the requirements of the World Health Assembly resolution, and does not meet the conclusions and recommendations of the first phase WHO report. The proposal violates the principles of scientific objectiveness and lacks the spirit of cooperation. I think their voices are objective, scientific, and just, and the WHO must pay attention to them for the sake of saving humanity from the curse of the virus.

Virus origin-tracing needs international cooperation

Viruses are the common enemies of mankind. We need to unite and deal with them together. Virus origin-tracing is a major, complex, and diverse scientific issue, which requires that origin-tracing be treated as a global task. Through joint efforts with scientists from various countries, China's origin-tracing research has made positive progress. Many expert teams have also jointly published hundreds of papers related to origin-tracing relying on global information. At present, many research results have shown that the time when the virus appeared in many places around the world was earlier than previously known.

Meanwhile, some scientific studies have proven that COVID-19 was probably already circulating in Italy by September 2019, months before the virus was first documented in Wuhan; in the US as early as mid-December 2019, weeks before China; in Paris as early as Dec 27, 2019, four days before China reported the first cases on December 31; in Brazil in November 2019, at least a month before the first case was detected in China; and, in a Barcelona sewage sample dating from March 12, 2019. The reports suggest that there were more and more reports of COVID-19 cases in multiple locations around the world in the second half of 2019.

As a result, it is vital to expand the horizons of the study and carry out multi-point, multi-directional and three-dimensional origins-tracing around the world. Only by strengthening confidence along the path of science, and carrying out scientific tracing with a scientific attitude, methods, and facts, the truth can finally be revealed. All this shows that the tracing of the COVID-19 virus is a complex scientific issue, which should be carried out in cooperation with the international scientific community based on a global perspective. Therefore, international cooperation is a must in this case.

From what has been discussed above, I have no other option but to conclude that the recent proposal made by the WHO Secretariat to carry out the second phase of research in China is very unreasonable. The proposal also doesn’t comply with the relevant resolutions of the World Health Assembly. Many countries have already rejected the proposal and the WHO should respect the sovereignty of member states, while communicating and negotiating with them on the second phase of the study. Any further origin-tracing work must continue based on the recommendations and conclusions made in the first phase report of the WHO. Only in this way can we better guard against future risks. In the case of any deviation and exception, the world will have to pay a high price in the long run.

This article was first published in the Bangladesh Post.

Md Enamul Hassan is a news editor and broadcast journalist at the China Media Group (CMG) in Beijing, China.  

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


Related Stories