WHO / COVID-19 FACT FINDING MISSION REPORT

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30-Mar-2021 00:04:29
The report of the international team on their Wuhan field visit, from 14 January to 10 February, was published today as WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for further studies. WHO

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STORY: WHO / COVID-19 FACT FINDING MISSION REPORT
TRT: 4:29
SOURCE: WHO
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LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 30 MARCH 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND / FILE

SHOTLIST:

RECENT – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

1.Wide shot, exterior WHO

30 MARCH 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

2.SOUNDBITE (English) Peter Ben Embarek, WHO Expert Who Led Mission in China:
"That's accepted by everybody, there was a lot of attention, a lot of pressure on all this work. We also had the entire world following every move we made during our stay in Wuhan whether during the quarantine or after the quarantine, the first quarantine period. And of course, there was a lot of interest from all sides, and I think, as you said, of course there was political pressure from all sides, also outside China. But I think we were able to create a space for the science, a space for the two groups of scientists that were together. We had nothing to hide, so there were no problem working in an open environment and sharing our work and our discussion as we had them."

RECENT – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

3.Wide shot, exterior WHO

30 MARCH 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

4.SOUNDBITE (English) Peter Ben Embarek, WHO Expert Who Led Mission in China:
"It is perfectly possible that you would have earlier cases, sporadic cases circulating in and around Wuhan before December, let's say, November and potentially October 2019, and potentially that some of them were also traveling abroad and seeding and transmitting the disease abroad, again, in sporadic way, elsewhere during November and earlier December."

RECENT – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

5.Wide shot, exterior WHO

30 MARCH 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

6.SOUNDBITE (English) Peter Ben Embarek, WHO Expert Who Led Mission in China:
"But because of the strong suspicion of certain bat species, being the host of this virus and having found other relatively close virus strains to Sars-Covid in the region, also in South-east Asia in general where these bats are living, is a strong indication that, that is where the source is. But we are still working on finding the exact trace back of the virus before.”
RECENT – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
7.Wide shot, exterior WHO
30 MARCH 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
8.SOUNDBITE (English) Peter Ben Embarek, WHO Expert Who Led Mission in China:
"We got access to quite a lot of data, in many different areas, but of course, there are areas where we had difficulties getting down to the raw data. And there are many good reasons for that. In China, like in many other countries, there are restrictions and privacy laws that forbid the sharing of data, including private details to outsiders, in particulars if the data are moving out of the country. There would be exactly the same in most countries in the world if we were going there to do any studies and we have done many studies in the past and we always face the same challenges."

RECENT – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

9.Wide shot, exterior WHO

30 MARCH 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

10. SOUNDBITE (English) Peter Ben Embarek, WHO Expert Who Led Mission in China:
"Nobody would expect that this mission would have come up with a final answer and that we would have show up at the end of the mission holding whatever animal in our hands and say, here is the culprit. That was never the intention or the expectation. This is work in progress again, and we all have to be patient and again support the logic of our work which is to start from where the first cases were identified, detected in Wuhan and looking at that event, that phase, that environment and then expending the environment and the studies and starting from that point and radiating out of it, following the leads that individual studies will give us."

RECENT – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

11.Wide shot, exterior WHO

30 MARCH 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

12. SOUNDBITE (English) Peter Ben Embarek, WHO Expert Who Led Mission in China:
"Lab accident, of course, do happens, once in a while, we have seen that throughout history in many places, so of course it is possible and therefore, it is also part of the conclusions in the report it is not impossible, that could have happened. But we haven't seen or been able to hear or see or look at anything that would warrant a different conclusion on our side. But as you said, we haven't done a full investigation, or audit of these labs, or any of the labs around the world for that matter."

RECENT – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

13.Wide shot, exterior WHO


STORYLINE:

The report of the international team on their Wuhan field visit, from 14 January to 10 February, was published today as WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for further studies.

The report stems from a Member State resolution adopted by consensus at the World Health Assembly in May 2020 and calling on WHO “to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts, including through efforts such as scientific and collaborative field missions.”

In remarks to Member States today (30 Mar), Dr Tedros, who received the full report on the weekend, thanked the team for their tireless work. He said it advances our understanding in important ways, while raising questions that will need to be addressed by further studies, as noted in the report. “As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table. This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end. We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” said Dr Tedros. “Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again. No single research trip can provide all the answers.”

Tedros welcomed the recommendations for further studies to understand the earliest human cases and clusters, and to trace animals sold at markets in and around Wuhan, but “the role of animal markets is still unclear.”

The team confirmed there had been widespread contamination in the large market of Huanan but could not determine the source of this contamination.

“Again, I welcome the recommendations for further research, including a full analysis of the trade in animals and products in markets across Wuhan, particularly those linked to early human cases”, he said.

He agreed that farmers, suppliers and their contacts should be interviewed, and that more study was needed to identify what role “farmed wild animals may have played in introducing the virus to markets in Wuhan and beyond.”

The team also visited several laboratories in Wuhan and considered the possibility that the virus had entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident, noted Tedros.

“However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions”, he said.

“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy.”

As far as WHO is concerned “all hypotheses remain on the table”, he told the Member State briefing on the report in Geneva.

“Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again. No single research trip can provide all the answers.
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