In Hunt for Coronavirus Source, W.H.O. Let China Take Charge

The question of the virus’s origin remains a critical mystery that, if solved, could help prevent another pandemic and help scientists cr...


The question of the virus’s origin remains a critical mystery that, if solved, could help prevent another pandemic and help scientists create vaccines and treatments. When the first SARS outbreak began spreading in China in late 2002, officials hid the epidemic for months. But when they finally acknowledged it, they soon allowed in international teams to investigate the animal source.

This time, the hunt for a source has been shrouded in secrecy.

Internal documents and interviews with more than 50 public-health officials, scientists and diplomats provide an inside look at how a disempowered World Health Organization, eager to win access and cooperation from China, has struggled to achieve either. Its solicitous approach has given space for Mr. Trump and his allies to push speculation and unfounded conspiracy theories, and deflect blame for their own mistakes.

The prospect of an apolitical inquiry into the virus’s origins is dwindling. China has extracted concessions from the health organization that have helped the country delay important research and spared its government a potentially embarrassing review of its early response to the outbreak.

“Unfortunately, this has become a political investigation,” said Wang Linfa, an Australian virologist in Singapore who helped identify bats as the hosts of the first SARS coronavirus. “Whatever they do is symbolic.”

The organization said it was committed to a full-scale investigation irrespective of political distractions.

“Divisions between and within countries have provided fertile ground for this fast-moving virus to grow and gain the upper hand,” the W.H.O.’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement to The Times. He said political attacks had undermined the world’s response. “Leadership in a crisis such as this requires listening, understanding, trust and moving forward together.”

The question of where Covid-19 began is especially intriguing because the initial theory, centered on illegal wildlife sales at the Wuhan market, is now in doubt.

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Newsrust: In Hunt for Coronavirus Source, W.H.O. Let China Take Charge
In Hunt for Coronavirus Source, W.H.O. Let China Take Charge
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https://www.newsrust.com/2020/11/in-hunt-for-coronavirus-source-who-let.html
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