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WHO’s report on origins of Covid-19: Highlights, reactions and criticism by world leaders

In episode 714 of 'Cut The Clutter', Shekhar Gupta analyses the WHO report on the origins of the coronavirus, says this is a beginning but not the end of the investigations into the virus' genesis.

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New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) released its 124-page report on the origins and spread of the coronavirus this week. In episode 714 of ‘Cut the Clutter’, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta highlighted the reports main findings and the reactions it has elicited from world leaders.

The report stated that the coronavirus probably spread from bats to humans via another animal but the report still does not specify if the virus then spread from the lab in Wuhan, China. Calling the report an outcome of “red tapism and bureaucracy”, Gupta said, “The report, very bureaucratically, says that the virus has not come out of a lab in China. This pleases the Chinese government but it has to keep the US happy. US President Joe Biden, just like Donald Trump, is hard on the Chinese and said that the results were not conclusive.”

About the WHO study

The report was a joint effort between 17 researchers from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, the UK, the US, Vietnam and a team of 17 researchers from China. These researchers spent a month conducting the study and research in the Chinese lab from where the virus is believed to have leaked.

Talking of the reactions to the report, Gupta said, “Even the most liberal of thinkers and media platforms are looking at this report with a lot of skepticism.”

Gupta cites Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the US Council for Foreign Relations, quoted in The New York Times report where he says, the report has the ‘risk of going nowhere’ — that is ending up in the middle of nowhere — and “we may never find the true origin of the virus”.

“This is because the Chinese government will not let anyone find out the truth. They control your access, and they co-write the report with you and their scientists work with you,” added Gupta.

“Basically what they say is one, we know that it went from animal to human, we don’t know if it went from animal to animal to human, or went straight from animal to human. We also don’t know where it came from, or which animal had it, originally —  they throw no light on that,” he said.

The report concludes that the Covid-19 virus made a zoonotic evolution, originating from a bat. Then, the virus travelled from another animal into the human body.

Also read: Covid isn’t over, and the next wave may be worse

Reactions and criticism of the report

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed his skepticism of the report and said that the US has doubts regarding the methodology of the report and the writing of the report since the Chinese were involved in writing it.

“The US, along with 13 of its allies, has issued a joint statement that they would like to work on this study along with the WHO again. Now, this shows the previous government’s skepticism but (also) it shows the Biden government’s willingness to work with the WHO,” explained Gupta.

While the Chinese have vehemently denied the suspicion that the virus originated or leaked from their labs, they have refused to give any more raw data which these countries have now asked for.

The report says that the first recorded transmission, or first reported case of somebody having symptoms of this Covid-19 virus was on 9 December, so it is quite possible that this patient was infected a week before. On this Gupta remarked that Dr Tedros, WHO chief, says that “while my team worked very hard meeting as many of these people as possible, however, I don’t believe this assessment was extensive enough. This means that it is possible that people in the Hunan market may have had pneumonia like symptoms since September but there is not enough evidence to say that.”

In his concluding remarks, Gupta called the WHO report a “report of convenience”, but added, “This report is a very important beginning, but not the end — we have not yet found the source of the virus and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned to do so.”

Watch the full episode here: 


Also read: WHO chief faults Covid origin probe report, wants Wuhan lab leak possibility studied again


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