COVID-19: the WHO team in Wuhan could not discover the origins of the pandemic

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WUHAN | Hypotheses and no certainty: after a four-week stay in Wuhan, China, the international team of Chinese experts and the WHO announced on Tuesday that they had been unable to unravel the origins of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic to crack down on the world, resulting in further restrictions.

• Read also: [EN DIRECT 9 FÉVRIER] All the developments of the pandemic

• Read also: Origin of COVID-19: a leak from a laboratory “highly improbable”

The latest country to tighten up COVID-19 measures again, the United Kingdom announced on Tuesday that all travelers arriving in England will have to undergo two PCR tests, on the second and eighth days of a compulsory ten-day quarantine.

The most bereaved country in Europe with nearly 113,000 dead fears more and more of being exposed to variants of the coronavirus potentially resistant to vaccines.

For the same reason, Spain, which passed the threshold of three million detected cases on Tuesday, announced that restrictions on flights from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa would be extended until to March 2.

In France, the authorities announced Tuesday that the bar of 80,000 deaths linked to the virus had been crossed.

In Greece, tighter containment, especially in the Athens region, will be put in place, leading to the closure of schools and shops.

Since the first cases of coronavirus identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, in central China, the world has barricaded itself wondering about the origin of a dramatic health crisis that has so far made more than 2, 3 million dead.

Deeming “highly improbable” the theory of a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) have nevertheless failed to identify the animal responsible for the disease.

Transmission of the coronavirus from a first animal and then a second before contamination to humans is the “most likely” hypothesis, said Peter Ben Embarek, head of the WHO delegation, at a press conference which was eagerly awaited.

However, this track requires “more specific and targeted research”, he added.

“Frozen wild animal”

Mr. Ben Embarek also mentioned “the possibility” of transmission of the coronavirus “via the trade in frozen products”: “It would be interesting to examine whether a frozen wild animal which has been infected could have been a potential vector”, he asked himself.

Transmission from an animal is probable, but it has “not yet been identified,” said Liang Wannian, head of the delegation of Chinese scientists.

Further, “there is not enough evidence […] to determine if SARS-CoV-2 spread to Wuhan before December 2019, ”according to Liang Wannian.

This mission on the origins of the transmission of the virus to humans has struggled to be put in place, China seeming reluctant to let these world specialists from various disciplines such as epidemiology, but also zoology come.

The Chinese mission comes to an end as other WHO experts on Monday examined AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, the effectiveness of which is now in question for the elderly and against the South African variant of virus.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which the United Kingdom was the first to administer massively to its population in December, has already been approved by several other countries and by the European Union. But some governments have preferred to recommend it only for those under 65 or even 55, for lack of sufficient data on its effectiveness for the elderly.

On Sunday, South Africa suspended the start of its vaccination program, which was to take place in the coming days with a million AstraZeneca vaccines, after a study revealing “limited” effectiveness against the local variant of the virus.

According to the initial results of this study, this vaccine is only 22% effective against moderate forms of the South African variant. No results are yet available on its effectiveness against severe forms.

It is “much too early to reject this vaccine”, which is “an important part of the global response to the current pandemic”, however assured Richard Hatchett, who heads the CEPI, the research arm of the COVAX mechanism, set up by WHO to try to ensure an equitable distribution of the means to fight COVID-19.

Vaccination in Iran

In Iran, it was with the Russian vaccine Sputnik V that the country most affected by the pandemic in the Near East and the Middle East began its vaccination campaign on Tuesday.

In Peru, the vaccination campaign with the Chinese vaccine from Sinopharm has started in hospitals in Lima for medical personnel.

The pandemic has killed nearly 2.35 million people worldwide since the end of December 2019, according to an assessment established by AFP on Tuesday.

More than 135 million doses of anti-COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, according to a count made by AFP on Tuesday.

To date, at least 90 countries or territories have started their campaign, but almost two out of three doses (64%) have been injected in “high” income countries (as defined by the World Bank), which do not host yet only 16% of the world’s population.

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