What will the experts of the World Health Organization do in Wuhan?

What will the experts of the World Health Organization do in Wuhan?

Ten WHO scientists are about to land in Wuhan with the mission to trace the origin of the coronavirus: is it really a bat virus? how did the spillover happen? If China really cooperates

(photo: Miguel Candela / Echoes Wire / Barcroft Media / Getty Image) Wuhan, one year and 2 million deaths later. Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), blocked so far for visa problems, are on their way to where it seems it all started. China has finally granted entry into the country and the team is expected to fly from Singapore directly to Wuhan on January 1 and 4. What can we expect?

WHO's disappointment

WHO has been planning the trip of its experts to China for months. The goal is to try to clarify what may have happened a year ago: where did the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus come from? What were the initial circumstances that allowed him to infect humans? Looking back and tracing the origin of the pandemic, according to the WHO, is very important in order to learn how to prevent and reduce risks for the future, and to better prepare ourselves for when it will happen again. It does not serve to attribute blame.

Yet, despite the agreements, the Beijing government last week prevented WHO experts from crossing Chinese borders. To the chagrin even of the ever diplomat Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who did not hide his frustration over yet another failure to finalize.

A controlled investigation

Now it seems that the game is finally over, too if the WHO had to give up a truly independent investigation, not granted by China. In fact, the team of international experts will be followed step by step by Chinese officials. The program has not been disclosed, but it seems unlikely that investigators will be allowed to get to touch really sensitive aspects.

The visit of the WHO delegation, which is expected to last 4-5 weeks, was defined by the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Zhao Lijian an opportunity to “exchange views with Chinese scientists and medical experts on scientific cooperation for the search for the origin of the new coronavirus ", adding however that what we know now is different from what it seemed at the beginning of the pandemic, that previous cases emerged compared to those officially indicated by China a year ago and that therefore the research of origin should probably involve "more countries and localities".

Mixed signals

The impression is that China is trying to push away from itself the responsibilities of the pandemic, the accusations of excessive secrecy which would have delayed the reporting of the first outbreaks to WHO and caused an underestimation of the pandemic risk. The propaganda - as can be deduced from Zhao Lijian's statements - has come to suggest that the coronavirus did not originate in China but was imported. On the other hand, it is Europe itself that has produced evidence that the virus circulated in the old continent months before the alert launched by Beijing, the state media proposed interpreting an Italian study in its favor.

If da on the one hand there is an attempt to minimize responsibility by proposing alternative hypotheses, on the other there are also signs of openness and greater transparency: a study made public by the Chinese Center for Disease Control, for example, showed that 4.43 % of Wuhan population blood samples contain antibodies to the coronavirus, an indication that the city's infection rates were much higher than originally recognized.

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