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WHO investigators to scrap plans for interim report on probe of COVID-19 origins

This comes after a team of WHO experts, which had launched a probe into the origin of the Covid-19 in Wuhan, had said that there is no evidence of coronavirus circulation in any animal species in China.

WHO investigators to scrap plans for interim report on probe of COVID-19 origins-dnm
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Geneva, First Published Mar 5, 2021, 10:34 AM IST
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Geneva: A World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 is planning to scrap an interim report on its recent mission to China amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington over the investigation and an appeal from one international group of scientists for a new probe.

In an open letter, a group of two dozen scientists has called for an international inquiry. They have stated that the WHO team, which had last month completed a mission to Wuhan -- the origin of coronavirus had "insufficient access to adequately investigate possible sources of the new coronavirus, including whether it slipped from a laboratory".

Their appeal comes as the US—which recently reversed a decision to leave the WHO—lobbies for greater transparency in the investigation, saying it is waiting to scrutinize the report on the Wuhan mission, and urging China to release all relevant data, including on the first confirmed infections in December 2019, and potential earlier ones.

Beijing, meanwhile, is pressing for similar WHO-led missions to other countries, including the US, to investigate whether the virus could have originated outside China and spread to Wuhan via frozen food packaging.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on February 12 that the team would release an interim report briefly summarizing the Wuhan mission, possibly the following week, with a full report coming weeks later. But that summary report has yet to be published and the WHO team is now scrapping that plan, said Peter Ben Embarek, the food-safety scientist who led the team. The WHO team plans to publish a summary along with the full, final report, he said. That final report “will be published in coming weeks and will include key findings,” a WHO spokesman said.

No further information was immediately available about the reasons for the delay in publishing the findings of the WHO-led mission to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first human cases of Covid-19 were detected in late 2019. China refused to give raw data on early Covid-19 cases to a WHO-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, Dominic Dwyer, one of the team's investigators said last month, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began.

(With inputs from agencies)

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