Researcher: Search for Corona origin stalls | Coronavirus and COVID-19 – Latest pandemic news | DW

At the beginning of the year, a group of independent experts in China searched for the origin of the corona pandemic. The 17 scientists traveled to Wuhan, among other places, on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO). Now eleven of them, one of them Fabian Leendertz from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, have made critical statements in the journal “Nature” about the state of research.

Members of the WHO expert group in February 2021 at Shanghai International Airport

In the search for the origin of the coronavirus, action must be taken urgently, according to the experts. The investigation at the time on behalf of the WHO was intended as the first step in a process, but it came to a standstill. In the article, the authors again call for the investigation to be continued (phase 2).

Hard to find early traces

The window in which it is still possible to find early traces of the virus in humans and animals in China and elsewhere is closing rapidly. Antibodies that could provide clues dwindle in infected people over time, the authors write. They consider transmission from animals to humans, presumably via an intermediate host, most likely.

Experts believe the virus may have spread to humans on wildlife farms. Many of them have now been closed and the animals have been killed, according to the Nature article. According to Chinese figures, 14 million people probably worked on these farms in 2016.

China blocks …

There has been a dispute for months over the investigation into the origin of the virus. China has delayed the journey of the international team of experts who carried out its investigation together with Chinese scientists for months. The leadership in Beijing has so far refused to foreign experts original data on 174 early patients who were infected with the virus, which was new at the time. The foreign scientists have recommended further studies in China, which Beijing has so far rejected.

The USA and other countries criticized that the thesis of a laboratory accident in which the virus could have escaped in the Chinese city of Wuhan was neglected under pressure from China. In their article in the journal Nature, the scientists emphasize again that they do not consider the thesis to be ruled out. “We have publicly asked for information supporting the hypothesis of a laboratory leak to be published and made available to WHO. This has not yet happened,” they write. The US government plans to present its own findings on this shortly.

China WHO Corona-Ursprung

Hospital in Wuhan – the origin of the corona pandemic is believed to be in the city

… and strikes back

China’s ambassador to Geneva, Chen Xu, again rejected the laboratory orthosis as “extremely unlikely”. Instead, certain laboratories in the US should be examined, he wrote in a statement, without explaining this idea in more detail. WHO emergency aid coordinator Mike Ryan was irritated by Chen’s statements. It is a contradiction on the one hand to consider the thesis of a laboratory incident to be improbable and on the other hand to suggest investigations in US laboratories.

The WHO shares the view that further studies on the origin of the virus must be carried out urgently, said the leading corona expert at the UN agency, Maria Van Kerkhove. “It is time to move forward and bring something forward here.” She added, however, that scientists in China had informed the WHO about further research. However, details on the projects are still pending.

China WHO Corona-Ursprung

China has repeatedly blocked the WHO investigations – here police officers in front of the virology institute in Wuhan

US intelligence services are also in the dark

According to media reports, an intelligence report requested by US President Joe Biden on the origin of the corona virus did not produce any clear results. The investigation, which was commissioned three months ago, could not conclusively find out whether the virus, which was first discovered in China, was transmitted to humans by animals or could have come from a laboratory, reported the Washington Post.

According to the newspaper, parts of the previously secret report submitted to the White House on Tuesday could be released in the coming days. The sheet relied on two US officials familiar with the case.

The ambiguous results are due, among other things, to a lack of information from China, reported the “Wall Street Journal”. “If China doesn’t give you access to certain records, you will never really know anything,” an unnamed US official told the newspaper.

The discussion about origins is picking up speed

The pandemic, which has now fallen victim to more than four million people worldwide, began in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019. It was soon speculated that the virus could have escaped in an accident from the Institute of Virology in Wuhan, which is researching coronaviruses. The Chinese government vigorously denies this.

Former US President Donald Trump was a big advocate of laboratory theory. According to critics, the main aim was to distract from his own failure in the pandemic. In the past few months, however, the discussion about the origin of the virus had picked up speed again. When Biden commissioned the investigation, he said the various US intelligence agencies had different opinions on the issue.

mak/wa (dpa, afp)

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