It is a particularly sensitive investigation which will begin for the World Health Organization. More than a year after the appearance of the new coronavirus, a WHO team is expected in China to determine the origin of the pandemic and this without a priori. For the Chinese regime, on the other hand, the objective is to avoid any responsibility for the epidemic which has killed more than 1.8 million people worldwide.
The visit is so sensitive that it takes on the appearance of a secret mission. Its dates have not even been specified, the WHO simply referring to “the first week of January”.
While it has managed to practically eradicate the disease on its soil, Beijing has not been able to prevent Donald Trump from regularly accusing him of having spread “the Chinese virus” on the planet. The communist power does not miss an opportunity on the other hand to cast doubts on the Chinese origin of the virus, while it had initially blamed a market in the city of Wuhan where live animals were sold.
Fortnight for experts
Epidemic requires, international experts will have to undergo a quarantine of two weeks on their arrival in Beijing. They will have three to four weeks to investigate. They could thus go to Wuhan around January 20, a year just after the quarantine of this metropolis of 11 million inhabitants, on January 23, 2020.
But this delay put by China to accept an independent investigation means that the first traces of the infection will be difficult to find for the researchers. “I am not an optimist. They will arrive after the battle ”, alarms infectious disease specialist Gregory Gray, of Duke University in the United States.
Wuhan “is the objective of the mission”
Scientists generally believe that the original host of the virus is a bat, but the intermediate animal that allowed human contamination is unknown. The Chinese press is raising more and more the hypothesis of an importation of the virus by frozen food, a theory rejected by the WHO.
For the international organization, there is no doubt that its experts will be able to investigate freely, even if Beijing has still not confirmed that Wuhan is indeed on the program of the visit. “The team will go to Wuhan, that is the objective of the mission,” however declared in mid-December the head of health emergencies of the Geneva institution, Michael Ryan.
Understand and learn
The mission is made up of ten scientists (Denmark, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, Russia, Vietnam, Germany, United States, Qatar and Japan). “The goal is not to point out a culprit country or authority,” said one of the team, Fabian Leendertz, of the Robert Koch Institute in Germany. “It’s about understanding what happened to prevent it from happening again.”