The US-China dispute obscures the investigation into the origin of Covid-19

The US-China dispute obscures the investigation into the origin of Covid-19 8
The US-China dispute obscures the investigation into the origin of Covid-19 8

The annual meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) is posing a big challenge to this agency, having to answer questions about the next step in the investigation into the origin of Covid-19.

The investigation team was sent by WHO to Wuhan city, where the first Covid-19 cases were recorded in China at the end of 2019, to find out the origin of the pandemic.

At the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of WHO, taking place this week, representatives of the US, UK, Japan and the European Union called for a new investigation into the origin of Covid-19.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also criticized gaps in international scientists’ access to field data, although Beijing has always insisted that it is transparent in this process.

`We emphasize the importance of a robust, comprehensive and expert-led investigation into the origins of Covid-19 as central to ensuring that we are ready to mitigate and successfully respond to outbreaks.`

China also announced its support for further research into the origins of Covid-19, but emphasized that it has completed its part and now it is time for other countries to cooperate for a global investigation.

Experts say that in the midst of the US-China tension, finding a reasonable and widely supported direction is a big challenge for WHO.

`Trying to balance the direction of the investigation that China wants while also meeting America’s expectations is very difficult,` said Sara Davies, an expert on global health governance and professor at Griffith University, Australia.

Security staff dispersed reporters from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after the WHO investigation team visited the site on February 3.

One of the major obstacles could be the theory that the virus leaked from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is researching bat viruses.

They have proposed three other hypotheses that are considered more likely, including that the virus transmitted directly from bats to humans, or transmitted from bats to humans through intermediary animals, or through food.

But the call to investigate the hypothesis that the virus leaked from the laboratory is increasingly receiving support from prominent scientists and lawmakers in the US, as well as WHO Director General Tedros himself.

At the May 25 meeting of the WHA, no country directly mentioned China or the theory of the virus leaking from the laboratory, although Portugal, representing European Union (EU) countries,

Experts say the increasing discussion among US leaders about the hypothesis that nCoV leaked from a laboratory may make the investigation more important for many countries, but `a line still exists`.

`To further investigate the origin of the pandemic, there will be a lot of work that needs to be done in China. In particular, China needs to allow international experts access to the Wuhan laboratory. But that is unlikely to happen.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on May 26 criticized the call to investigate the hypothesis that nCoV leaked from the laboratory and said the next step of the investigation should be conducted in the US, although he did not provide details.

`Some Americans claim to want to know the truth, but their real intention is political manipulation,` Mr. Trieu said.

Wang Yiwei, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China in Beijing, also urged WHO investigators not to focus solely on China.

`China lets experts investigate, but the US does not do the same. The US has the ability and can even have problems from its own laboratory, so research should be conducted with all and none

Drew Thompson, a senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said Beijing would continue to claim it had `fulfilled its obligation` by cooperating in the initial investigation.

He added that any investigation team that continues to be sent to China is unlikely to come up with conclusions that satisfy the United States and other countries calling for an investigation independent of the Beijing government.

`There is no indication that the political dynamics in China have changed or that the nature of WHO’s relationship with member states has changed,` he said.

But Berman hopes more negotiations will take place to determine the next direction of virus origin research in China, neighboring countries or elsewhere.

`Even though all countries support the investigation, let’s watch and see if they can agree on any direction of investigation, if any,` she said.

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