WHO must make sure Covid-19 investigation in China is transparent

Beijing finally gives the green light for 10-strong mission to Wuhan to probe the origins of the virus

A World Health Organization mission has finally been given the all-clear by Beijing to trace the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in China amid rising infections.

The 10-strong group of scientists will touch down on January 14, seven days after the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that there had been a “misunderstanding” about the arrival date of the WHO team.

At the time, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concerns about the delay, admitting he was “very disappointed.”

The first reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2020.

The facts:

  • The news on January 11 came as China reported 103 new cases, the highest rise since July 30.
  • Official figures show that the total number of people infected is 87,536 with a death toll of 4,634.
  • Allegations that the ruling Communist Party covered up the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan have been reinforced by research released by the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • CDC data showed that 500,000 people could have been initially infected by the deadly virus or 10 times higher than the reported numbers.
  • Global infections topped 90 million on January 11 with the death toll close to two million.

What was said: “We have had four video meetings and conducted scientific discussions with the group during each meeting. We had candid consultations on specific arrangements for the process, focus, details and procedures of the investigation and reached [an] agreement,” Zeng Yixin, the deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, said in a statement without going into further details.

Reaction to the news: “It’s very important that as the WHO is in the lead in fighting the pandemic, that it also has a leading role in trying to look back at the roots of this pandemic so we can be better prepared for the next one,” Stephane Dujarric, a United Nations spokeswomen, said.

China Factor comment: More than a year after the outbreak of Covid-19, the world is still waiting for answers. The delay could only have happened in a nation where vital information is routinely suppressed by the highly-secretive Communist Party, which has pushed an alternative agenda for the virus pandemic. Only an in-depth, transparent investigation will be acceptable after six months of stalling by President Xi Jinping’s administration. But that is unlikely to happen. “I would be inclined to set the expectations of a conclusion very low for this visit,” Dale Fisher, of the Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network coordinated by the WHO, said as reported by the Reuters news agency.