COVID Origins Report: International Experts Explain

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International experts recently dispatched to China to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic presented details of their findings on Tuesday, which favor transmission via an intermediate animal without being able to identify it at this stage.

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This joint report by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and China follows a mission on the origins of the transmission of the virus to humans, considered extremely important to try to better fight against a possible future epidemic, conducted in the field from January 14 to February 9. It will be presented on Tuesday in Geneva at a virtual press conference.

According to the elements of the report which AFP obtained a copy on Monday, its authors judge the transmission of the virus to humans by an intermediate animal “probable to very probable”, while the hypothesis of a laboratory incident is at otherwise described as “extremely unlikely”.

The study favors the generally accepted theory of the natural transmission of the virus from a reservoir animal (probably the bat) to humans, through another animal not yet identified. Among the suspects are the domestic cat, the rabbit or the mink, or the pangolin or the badger-ferret.

However, direct transmission of the virus via the reservoir animal is considered “possible to probable” by experts. They do not rule out the hypothesis of transmission by frozen meat – a path favored by Beijing -, deeming this scenario “possible”.

The report recommends continuing studies on the basis of these three hypotheses, but however brushes aside the possibility of transmission to humans during a laboratory accident.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that with the report, “all hypotheses are on the table and deserve further and comprehensive studies.”

“There will be other pandemics”

Mr Ghebreyesus and the President of the European Council Charles Michel are also due to present on Tuesday a draft “international treaty on pandemics” aimed at better facing the inevitable health crises to come.

“There will be other pandemics and other large-scale health emergencies. No government or multilateral organization can face this threat on its own, ”underline the leaders of some twenty countries in a joint forum to be published Tuesday in many international dailies.

Among the signatories are French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and South Korean Presidents Moon Jae-in, South African Cyril Ramaphosa, Indonesian Joko Widodo and Chilean Sebastian Piñera.

While COVID-19 “takes advantage of our weaknesses and our divisions”, “such a renewed collective commitment would be an important step to consolidate pandemic preparedness at the highest political level”, according to this text.

A treaty “should lead to greater mutual accountability and shared responsibility” and “foster transparency and cooperation within the international system,” they add, calling for “learning lessons” from COVID-19 and to work with civil society and the private sector.

“Empty stomach”

In the meantime, the fight continues on a daily basis all over the world in an attempt to stem the pandemic and limit its impact, sometimes dramatic, on populations.

“The earthquakes of the COVID-19 pandemic have shattered the lives of millions of women and girls and destroyed many of our achievements,” the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, was alarmed on Monday during a meeting dedicated to gender equality.

“In many places, the very idea of ​​gender equality has been attacked. Regressive laws are back and violence against women is on the rise, ”he added.

In Zimbabwe, restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus have worsened hunger in the country’s urban areas, where at least 2.4 million people are now struggling to meet their basic food needs, the UN said on Monday.

“The lucky ones will skip meals, the others will have to go to bed on an empty stomach,” warned the director of the World Food Program (WFP) in this poor African country, Francesca Erdelmann.

Towards a European health passport

In the United States, US President Joe Biden on Monday announced an acceleration of the vaccination campaign in the United States, but at the same time issued a warning: “The war against COVID-19 is far from won. “. “Now is not the time for celebrations. Don’t give up now! », He launched.

The European Union is considering the entry into force in June of a European health passport. This document is intended, with a view to the summer season, to facilitate travel for Europeans who can thus certify that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, have passed a negative PCR test or are immunized after having been infected.

The Old Continent should receive from April 19 its first deliveries of the American vaccine Johnson & Johnson.

England for its part rediscovered on Monday some freedoms such as playing golf and meeting friends in a park for a cup of tea, but fears that the current wave of contamination in Europe will cross the Channel.

Fifteen months after the detection of the first cases of COVID-19 at the end of December 2019 in Wuhan (China), the pandemic has killed at least 2.78 million people, according to a report established by AFP on Monday.