Not only does December 31st mark the end of the year, but the date is important in the brief history of Covid-19. On this day in 2019, the health authorities in Wuhan, China, informed the World Health Organization’s China Country Office in Beijing of cases of an “unknown pneumonia outbreak”.
The WHO press release of January 5, 2020 states: “Clinical signs and symptoms are mainly fever with some patients with difficulty breathing and chest x-rays showing invasive lesions on both lungs.”
In its risk assessment, the WHO further stated: “The reported link to a wholesale market for fish and live animals could indicate a link with animal exposure.” The international agency indicated the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 is the species barrier skips from animal to human.
Two years have passed and infections have topped 286 million worldwide, and the trend is rising, with over 5.4 million deaths and trillions of dollars in economic losses. However, there is no clarity on how the novel coronavirus came about and how it jumped onto humans and sparked an unprecedented global health crisis.
The WHO and their boss, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and China.
There is no doubt that the first clusters of Covid-19 cases were found in Wuhan as early as the first week of December 2019. The novel coronavirus was finally identified on December 31, 2019. However, it took the WHO the next 70 days to declare the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
In between, the number of patients, limited to 44 and localized in Wuhan, rose to around 1.14 lakh, spread across 114 nations and over 4,000 deaths. The world lost valuable time as the deadly virus sped silently across the globe.
Many experts argue that not only did the global health authority provide conflicting and confusing guidelines, but they allegedly did everything possible to cover up Chinese tracks.
On January 14, 2020, the WHO tweeted that preliminary investigations by the Chinese authorities have found “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” The belief of the global health authority and the continued transmission of Chinese words gave the world a false sense of security.
WHO defended delays in setting off a global alarm, saying it had to rely on member countries to truthfully report its results. “WHO is open. We’re not hiding anything, âsaid Dr. Ghebreyesus.
It was later revealed that Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) had already sent an email to WHO on December 31, 2019 warning of “a real possibility of human-to-human transmission”. Dr. Ghebreyesus denied this, saying, “Taiwan has not reported any human-to-human transmission.”
In January, Taiwan’s ex-health minister Chen Chien-jen said in an interview with Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera: âIf the situation in Wuhan was very well reported to the World Health Organization and they organized a team, and in mid-December 2019, I think the disease would have could be contained and no other country would have suffered. “
But the WHO chief trusted Beijing too much. On January 28, 2020, after meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Dr. Ghebreyesus the Chinese leadership. “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, particularly the commitment of top leadership and the transparency shown, including the sharing of data and the genetic sequence of the virus,” he said.
China, meanwhile, has been busy censoring critical information and arresting those who were telling the truth about the virus’ spread.
“Authorities initially covered up the news about the virus and then took tough quarantine measures in Wuhan and other parts of China,” Human Rights Watch said in its 2021 report, accusing Chinese authorities of monitoring and harassing the families of those who died from the virus.
There was evidence of Chinese wrongdoing, and yet Dr. Ghebreyesus away and not pushing it on its early mistakes.
The applause from the WHO chief for China at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020 met with sharp criticism. The WHO chief said China’s steps to contain the outbreak at its source appear to have bought the world time, although those steps have resulted in higher costs for China itself.
The WHO chief not only stopped with unrestrained praise for Beijing, but also castigated other countries for their reactions to the outbreak. At the WHO board meeting last year, Dr. Ghebreyesus told countries not to restrict travel to China and warned against politicizing the outbreak. The world was in the dark and the response to Covid-19 was delayed.
But the WHO chief’s exuberant praise cut no ice at Beijing when the global health agency needed full and unrestricted access in Wuhan, the first place to report virus pneumonia “to identify the source of the zoonosis.”
In May 2020, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution calling for the need for an independent investigation to find the origins of Covid-19. But it took time, effort and several rounds of negotiations before Beijing agreed.
WHO scientists were back in Wuhan in January. The four-week joint study with Chinese colleagues was severely limited. The Chinese decided who will participate in the investigation and refused to share raw data on early Covid-19 cases. The team was not granted access to study various hypotheses about how the virus jumped into humans.
Later on March 30th, Dr. Ghebreyesus, while informing member states of the investigation team’s report that China had withheld important data from investigators. “In my conversations with the team, they have expressed the difficulties they have encountered in accessing raw data,” he said, adding, “I expect future joint studies to include more timely and more comprehensive data sharing.”
The final report of the WHO exploratory team, which was thousands of pages long, remained inconclusive as the theory of the laboratory leak was described as “extremely unlikely,” but Dr. Ghebreyesus added that “this will require further investigation, possibly with additional missions with subject matter experts”. The report could not conclusively say about the role of animal markets in Wuhan.
Later, Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO expert who led the Wuhan investigation, told a Danish television documentary that China had pressured its team to reject the laboratory leak theory.
In August, China rejected the WHO’s request for a re-investigation, saying such calls were motivated by politics rather than scientific research. In addition, the Chinese authorities are running a disinformation campaign which, according to an Associated Press investigation, “involves promoting marginal theories that the virus may have come from outside the country”.
Recently, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua and the state-run Global Times published a research report entitled “USA is responsible for the global spread of Covid-19”, in which they consider the US as the “most likely country to originate from Covid-19,” and blame the country with the highest responsibility for the rapid global spread of the virus.
Two years have passed since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, but we still have to find its origins. There are many hypotheses but no clear answer as to how the pandemic began and how the virus got on humans.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus develops faster and it can take years to finish. However, if human efforts succeed in following their evolutionary path, it would be much easier for them to prevent future virus spillover.
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