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The World Health Organization is preparing to send a “last chance” mission to find the origin of the COVID-19 virus and find out the cause of the global epidemic two years ago in China.
The organization nominated 26 experts to join the scientific advisory group to know the origins of the new pathogens, which it called (Sago).
The world is still searching for the origin of the Covid-19 virus, since it was discovered more than a year and a half ago in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and the question of how it first appeared without a clear answer remains.
The team will look into hypotheses, including if the virus was transmitted from animals to humans in the markets of Wuhan, or if it was manufactured in a laboratory and leaked from the laboratory abroad.
China strongly rejects the second theory and that Covid-19 was a virus manufactured in a laboratory.
A team from the World Health Organization tasked with investigating the origins of Covid visited China in February, and its research concluded that the virus may have come from bats, but recommended more work and research.
But WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later said the investigation had been hampered by a lack of data and transparency from China.
Among the nominated members of the new Sago Group, are six experts who visited China as part of the previous team.
In addition to the Covid virus, Sago’s team will also investigate the origins of other high-risk pathogens.
“Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential to prevent future outbreaks,” said the WHO director.
“A lab accident cannot be ruled out,” Tedros explained, in an editorial jointly with other WHO officials published in the journal Science.
Michael Ryan, director of emergencies at the World Health Organization, said Sago’s work could be “the last chance to understand the origins of this virus”.
The announcement of the new kit comes as CNN reported that China is preparing to test tens of thousands of blood bank samples taken in the early months of the epidemic.
But Chen Shu, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said Sago’s work should not be “politicised”.
He stressed that it was time to “send teams to other places”.
The WHO is caught up in a geopolitical battle
Analysis: Tulip Mazumdar – Global Health Correspondent
Since the beginning of the epidemic almost two years ago, we do not know where, when and how the deadly Covid virus appeared.
Investigating new viruses is always very complicated, but scientists were able to find the source of the outbreak of two strains of corona in the past, and the beginning was from animals.
It has been nine months since the last WHO mission returned from Wuhan, and said the outbreak through animals was the most likely source of the epidemic. But questions are still being raised about a possible accident in a Wuhan laboratory that conducts studies on coronaviruses and holds thousands of bat samples.
China has strongly denied this.
The World Health Organization says China has not yet shared important data from the early days of the epidemic. It appears that the United Nations organization is currently caught in the line of fire between China and the United States in the largest geopolitical battle over the issue, and is working to harden its language on investigations into the theory of lab leakage.
Science has become increasingly politicized, with China so far refusing to allow international scientists back into the country. It is hoped that the new SAGO group of experts from 26 different countries will be able to end this impasse, and finally get some of the answers we desperately need so that the world can better prepare for a similar situation and a future virus outbreak.