New Delhi,4 July: A World Health Organisation (WHO) team will finally visit China next week in a bid to investigate the source of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement to this effect was made five days ago by WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on June 29, who had remarked that the world can fight the virus better ‘when we know everything about the virus, including how it started’.
“WHO has been saying that knowing the source of the virus is very, very important. It’s science, it’s public health. We can fight the virus better when we know everything about the virus, including how it started,” he had said in a media briefing on June 29.
“We will be sending a team next week to China to prepare for that and we hope that that will lead into understanding how the virus started and what we can do for the future to prepare.
The novel coronavirus has killed over 500,000 people in the world and cases and deaths are increasing by the day.
“What is needed now is a good investigation going back before December to find out where and how it jumped from animal to human. Was there any intermediate animal or not or it directly jumped from bat to humans which are also possible? Bats have been implicated in other viral diseases — Nipah for example. It is possible it came directly. It is also possible that there was an intermediate animal-like in the case of SARS. That thorough investigation still needs to be done,” she said.
Dr Swaminathan said that the Chinese government had reported an outbreak of “typical pneumonia cases” from Wuhan on December 31.
“Our WHO country office in China picked it up and on January 1, WHO activated its international mechanisms which we do as part of international health regulations whenever there’s any new signal gets reported. It is conveyed to everyone so that the whole world knows about it,” she said.
Dr Swaminathan said that sequences show that the virus causing COVID-19 is very similar to bat viruses.”We do not know more than that in the sense where and how it originated. We know from the virus sequences that it is very similar to bat viruses.
A lot of studies have been done in South-East Asia to show that bats have lots of coronaviruses. There are over 500 types of coronaviruses. There are also previous studies showing that populations living in southern China and even in other countries of South-East Asia have antibodies to coronaviruses,” she said.
The pandemic has grown to more than 10 million cases and has caused over 500,000 deaths across the world.