NYC Researcher Offers Behind-The-Scenes Look At WHO Mission To Find COVID-19’s Origins


As New York approaches the primary anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, a analysis mission performed by the World Well being Group and China is attempting to unravel how the virus originated.

The mission launched its first batch of outcomes on February ninth, saying the coronavirus possible first appeared in people after leaping from an animal. However questions stay over which animal was concerned, in addition to when and the place that occurred.

Dr. Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO workforce, says researchers have extra work to do.

“That work must be achieved in collaboration with China,” stated Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance in New York Metropolis, a company that research the interaction between animals, people, the setting and the emergence of infectious illness. “It isn’t going to occur if we see these continued assaults on science, continued assaults on China as a supply.”

Right here’s what he advised WNYC’s David Furst concerning the journey and what to anticipate subsequent from the continued analysis quest.

Ten consultants from ten nations headed to China to accomplice with researchers there. You documented a few of your expertise on Twitter, however what was it like while you first arrived?

Properly, it is fairly an expertise. The factor that you just discover first is how critically China takes quarantine. I imply, we have been shuffled off the airplane by folks carrying full PPE. We have been taken by means of a separate exit and examined right away, put in a lodge room and the door was locked for 14 days. And everybody who got here to that lodge room door was wearing full PPE, and our trash was taken out in a biohazard bag. I am now again in my very own quarantine right here in New York and it is a four-day quarantine in case you check adverse. So the distinction is outstanding.

Let’s discuss what many contemplate to be floor zero for the pandemic, the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan. The primary circumstances have been linked there and Chinese language investigators had appeared into the market lengthy earlier than the WHO workforce arrived. What did you be taught concerning the market that wasn’t public earlier than?

Properly, to begin with, we visited the market, which was fairly essential. I believe we are the first Westerners to go there, and who is aware of how lengthy that market will nonetheless be there. It is closed.

It is putting while you go in there, you see what basically is like many markets throughout Southeast Asia. And it was in all probability a really busy place. It is received plenty of stalls that promote seafood, but in addition stalls that promote wildlife meat and wildlife merchandise. And that features carcasses of animals, which it seems we all know are capable of carry SARS-related coronaviruses.

So there’s a clear danger issue at the marketplace for the origin of COVID, and that was a brand new discovering from this mission. It was work achieved by China that was introduced to us for the primary time.

Does the WHO workforce nonetheless contemplate the market to be the place the virus spilled over from animals to people? What about different markets within the space? May they be the supply?

Wuhan… it is a large metropolis. We have additionally received different markets in Wuhan that have not been investigated in as a lot element. That could be the origin. It is unclear. There’s proof of in depth unfold in December inside the metropolis of Wuhan, elsewhere, too.

Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, where a number of people related to the market fell ill with a virus, sits closed in Wuhan, China, January 21, 2020.


Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, the place quite a few folks associated to the market fell in poor health with a virus, sits closed in Wuhan, China, January 21, 2020.

Dake Kang/AP/Shutterstock

Now, you and your colleagues nonetheless suspect that this coronavirus got here from animals, proper? You and your group have additionally been the topic of those conspiracy theories across the concept of a lab leak given previous collaborations with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. What do you say to individuals who nonetheless imagine in these theories?

Properly, you have to take a look at each risk. I perceive why folks take a look at a biosecurity lab the place we aren’t allowed in, the place mysterious issues go on in there, and suppose one thing unhealthy occurred.

However look, the issue is ailments emerge due to our actions across the planet…deforestation, wildlife commerce. The proof is evident. And if we preserve these labs and pointing the finger then we’re lacking the true image.

We’re nonetheless doing these issues to the planet and viruses will proceed to emerge except we take care of these points. That is my key downside with the conspiracy theories.

Can we even speak concerning the end result of this mission as having a conclusion? That is in all probability the unsuitable phrase. How are you aware? What’s the decision right here?

Properly, like all good science, it by no means ends. You are pushing ahead and then you definitely discover extra, then you have to dig deeper. So that is actually step one. And what we will say is we went in there with a number of hypotheses on the origin.

We checked out every one. We visited the lab, we talked to the lab folks, and we got here to the conclusion that that was extraordinarily unlikely as a supply. What we checked out and different hypotheses are extra possible, and particularly, this concept of a bat-origin virus getting right into a wildlife farm after which being funneled by means of the wildlife commerce into the market was the almost definitely state of affairs proper now.

Plenty of work must be achieved. It is truthful to say that China examined these animal carcasses in that market and located them to be adverse. So we do not have the smoking gun but.

We have to do extra work, and that work must be collaborative with China. And that is not going to occur if we see these continued assaults on science, continued assaults on China as a supply. So we’re all a part of this collectively. Let’s work collectively to search out the subsequent solutions to this.