WHO found that the original coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan was much more widespread than reported by China

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Peter Ben Embarek, member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team in charge of investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease
Peter Ben Embarek, member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team in charge of investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease

The mission of the World Health Organization (WHO) that visited China believes that in December 2019 the coronavirus was more widespread than previously thought in the province of Wuhan, the US network CNN reported on Sunday.

The director of that mission, Peter Ben Embarek, told the chain that Chinese scientists presented to the mission 174 cases of coronavirus registered in Wuhan and its surroundings and that they were reported in December 2019, of which 100 were confirmed through laboratory and the rest by clinical diagnosis of the patient. Added that This increased number of cases, probably serious cases, discovered by Chinese doctors early on, could mean that the disease affected more than 1,000 people in Wuhan in that December.

“The virus was widely circulating in Wuhan in December, which is a new finding,” Embarek said, returned to Switzerland after a four-week mission to the Asian country to investigate the origin of the virus.

The researcher noted that They discovered that there were more than a dozen strains of the virus in Wuhan as early as December, a sign that reflects a broader spread than previously thought.

He added that they were also able to speak with the patient indicated by the Chinese authorities as the first case: an office worker in his 40s, with no travel history, and reported infected on December 8, 2019.

Peter Daszak and Thea Fischer, members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team in charge of investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, February 3, 2021. REUTERS / Thomas Peter
Peter Daszak and Thea Fischer, members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team in charge of investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, February 3, 2021. REUTERS / Thomas Peter

Embarek pointed out that after the mission they have managed to collect for the first time 13 different genetic sequences of the SARS-COV-2 virus as of December 2019, which if examined with broader data from patients in China during 2019 could provide clues to the place and time of the outbreak before December.

That genetic material, CNN says, is probably the first international evidence to support the theory that Several variants of the virus have been circulating since before December 2019, as estimated by some virologists.

The diffusion of the interview with the director of the mission occurs after Saturday The White House demanded that the Chinese government make public its data on the first days of the pandemic, and expressed its “deep concerns” about the way in which the WHO mission made its findings known after visiting China.

In a statement, the White House National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, considered it “imperative” that the WHO investigation into the origin of the virus be “independent” with the findings of the mission in Wuhan and “free of any intervention or alteration by the Chinese Government ”.

On Friday, the newspaper The Wall Street Journal reported that the Chinese government refused to provide the WHO mission with original data on the first cases of covid-19 in the Asian country and only provided the reports they had prepared on these infections.

Wuhan (Shutterstock)
Wuhan (Shutterstock)

Therefore, the WHO team could not review the original data on which these reports were based, something that would allow them to reach their own conclusions about the origin and the way in which the virus spread, according to researchers from organization cited anonymously by The Wall Street Journal

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington criticized these comments and pointed out that “WHO is an authorized multilateral international organization in the field of health, not an amusement park where one can come and go at will”, alluding to the process that former US President Donald Trump started to leave the body. “What the United States has done in recent years has seriously undermined multilateral institutions, including the WHO, and severely damaged international cooperation on COVID-19,” he added.

Embarek told CNN that they hope to return to the Chinese province of Wuhan in the next few months to continue the investigations, but at the moment there are no specific dates.

With information from EFE

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