Saturday, November 7, 2020

The WHO is hunting for the coronavirus’s origins. Here are the new details.

Disease detectives who have worked on similar hunts say the investigation is business as usual—but now with advanced tools and techniques that should aid the process.

Members of the Wuhan Hygiene Emergency Response Team conduct searches on the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan, in the Hubei Province, on January 11, 2020.  Photograph by Noel Celis, AFP via Getty Images

Larry Mullin
National Geographic

Beijing Ten months have passed since health officials cited Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market as ground zero for the COVID-19 pandemic—and a global debate over how the pandemic began has existed for nearly as long. But the public may soon learn answers as the World Health Organization embarks on the final stages of a search for the coronavirus’s origins.

During an October 23 news conference, Michael Ryan, the WHO Health Emergencies Programme executive director, said Chinese scientists have already begun early studies for the two-phase investigation. Based on what those experts find, the WHO will then deploy an international team in China to collaborate with many of the country’s top scientists in tracing COVID-19’s roots.

A week later, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a group of international experts had held a first virtual meeting with their Chinese counterparts, before pledging the WHO’s full support for the process. And on November 5, the WHO quietly released details on its mission with China, which it describes as a global study of the origins of SARS-CoV-2.  Read more >>