Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The United States on Tuesday called for a “transparent” second phase of investigation into the origins of novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the route of introduction to the human population. In a video message to the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA), US health secretary Xavier Becerra advocated that international experts should be given independence to fully assess the source of the virus, which has claimed more than 3.4 million lives so far.
An international team of experts visited Wuhan in January to probe the origins of the virus and identified two most likely scenarios that caused SARS-CoV-2 transmission to the human population, including the one involving intermediary host species. The hypothesis of introduction through a laboratory incident had gained a lot of traction in the early days of the outbreak but the global study, convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), deemed it “extremely unlikely.”
“Phase 2 of the Covid origins study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak,” Becerra told the annual ministerial meeting of the WHO.
While Becerra didn’t mention China directly, his call for a transparent and independent investigation came days after top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci raised doubt over the preliminary findings. At a virtual event hosted by Poynter Institute on May 11, Fauci was asked whether he was convinced with the theory that the virus “developed naturally.”
“I am not convinced…I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability exactly what happened,” said Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favour of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus,” he added.
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