The United States and thirteen allied countries on Tuesday expressed their “concerns” in a joint statement about the World Health Organization (WHO) report on the origin of COVID-19, calling on China to give “Full access” to their data.
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WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for his part, called for an investigation into the hypothesis of a virus leak from a laboratory in China to explain the origin of the pandemic, and criticized the insufficient sharing of data by Beijing during the mission of international experts this winter.
These experts, missioned from January 14 to February 9 in China, where the first cases of the disease appeared in December 2019, nevertheless considered that the hypothesis of a laboratory leak was the least likely.
This hypothesis has been strongly defended by the US administration under President Donald Trump. China has always denied this possibility.
“The study of international experts on the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been significantly delayed (…). It is crucial that independent experts can have full access to all data, ”said the new US administration in a statement co-signed by, among others, the UK, Israel, Canada, Japan, Australia , Denmark or Norway.
The WHO report is “a useful first step” but “additional investigations will have to be continued”, the European Union reacted.
International Treaty on Pandemics
The authors of the report judged the transmission of the virus to humans by an as yet unidentified intermediate animal “probable to very probable”, while the hypothesis of a laboratory incident is on the contrary qualified as “extremely improbable” .
Experts do not rule out the hypothesis of transmission by frozen meat – a path favored by Beijing -, deeming this scenario “possible”.
In order to prepare for the inevitable health crises to come, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the President of the European Council Charles Michel called on Tuesday to draw up an “international treaty on pandemics”.
“No government or any multilateral organization can face this threat on its own,” underlined the leaders of some twenty countries in a column published Tuesday in many international dailies.
Among the signatories are French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, South Korean Presidents Moon Jae-in, South African Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa, Indonesian Joko Widodo and Chilean Sebastian Piñera.
Gender equality in decline
The health crisis has also delayed the time needed to achieve gender equality by more than a generation, according to a study released Wednesday by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
“The pandemic has had a fundamental impact on gender equality, both in the workplace and at home, setting back years of progress,” said Saadia Zahidi, member of the executive committee of this body.
It will therefore take 36 more years to close the economic, political, health and educational gaps, bringing the total to 135.6 years before achieving parity on a global scale.
The repercussions of the health crisis were more severe for women, who were more likely to lose their jobs and saw an increase in their domestic workload, with household chores, childcare and care of the elderly. .
And the study’s authors note that the data collected for 2021 does not yet fully reflect the impact of the pandemic on women.
Strengthening measures in Europe
Several countries in Europe hit by a third epidemic wave continue to announce measures to try to limit the spread of the virus, in particular concerning travel.
Germany will thus reinforce for the “next 8 to 14 days” the controls around its land borders, in particular with France, Denmark and Poland.
The police will “not be able to send the travelers back” but will check that they have a negative test within 48 hours and have registered with the German health authorities.
Italy, most of whose territory is subject to severe restrictions, will impose five-day isolation on travelers coming from the EU. They will have to carry out a test before their departure and another after their isolation.
The pandemic has killed at least 2.79 million people, according to a report established Tuesday by AFP, fifteen months after the detection of the first cases of Covid-19 at the end of December 2019 in Wuhan (China).
Vaccination campaigns are gradually progressing, and Germany has maintained its goal of vaccinating its adult population against Covid-19 “by the end of the summer” despite the restriction on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine decided on Tuesday for those under 60 due to rare cases of thrombosis.
The German laboratory BioNTech announced Tuesday that it intended to manufacture in 2021 up to 2.5 billion doses of its vaccine developed with the American Pfizer: 25% more than initially announced.
More than 565 million doses of anti-Covid vaccines have been administered in at least 179 countries or territories, according to a count made by AFP from official sources on Tuesday.