The delegation of 13 international experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) completed this Saturday the second day of the information collection program to establish the origin of the covid-19 pandemic. This is the first time that Chinese authorities have allowed foreign scientists to collect information on site in the city where the first transmission of the virus to a human being will have occurred.
The WHO mission visited one of the first health facilities in Wuhan, Jinyintan Hospital, which treated patients with covid-19, where scientists had “the important opportunity to speak directly [com] doctors who were on the ground at that critical moment fighting covid, ”wrote Peter Daszak, a specialist in disease ecology and president of the EcoHealth Alliance.
For the American scientist, in declarations to NBC News, “if science is allowed to speak, it will help to heal this wound and will help us to move forward”, a curious formulation that implies between the lines that it may not to have this permission so that it is only science to speak.
This was a difficult visit to guarantee on the part of the WHO, which involved many negotiations with the Chinese Government, came to be held several times and happens more than a year later, raising many questions about its effectiveness and whether it is not too late for scientists can find out where and how it all started.
The afternoon of the second day of the visit was spent visiting museums, as Global Times, State newspaper, cited by South China Morning Post, which raises doubts as to whether the Chinese government and President Xi Jinping will be really interested that the truth is really known. Like the possibility of confirming the exact origin of the virus, if it was even transmitted to humans by an animal, probably a bat, through a host.
“All chances are on the table for the team that will follow science in its work to understand the origins of the virus # COVID19”, wrote the WHO on Twitter. The scientists “are going to talk to the first ones who were on the ground and to some of the first # COVID19 patients”.
Without speaking to journalists
Upon leaving Jinyintan Hospital, members of the WHO delegation were not allowed to speak to journalists, kept at a distance by the security services that surround scientists at the various stages of their program.
Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, from Erasmus University Medical Center, also turned to Twitter: “I just visited the Jinyintan hospital, which specializes in infectious diseases and was assigned to treat the first cases in Wuhan. The stories are very similar to what we hear from our ICU doctors ”.
The team of scientists from ten countries, including specialists in public health, animal health and virus hunters, arrived in Wuhan on 14 January, but only on Thursday did the mandatory 14-day quarantine period at the hotel end.
On WHO’s Twitter, the organization recalled: “Now that members [da equipa] start their field visits this Friday, they should receive the support, access and data they really need ”.
The WHO delegation discussed the program of visits to hospitals, laboratories and markets on Friday at a meeting with Chinese scientists, which included Liang Wannian, a member of the National Health Commission that oversaw the Chinese response to the virus last year.
According to the WHO, among the places to be visited by scientists are the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Wuhan seafood market and the laboratory of the Wuhan Disease Prevention and Control Center.
This Saturday, the 13 specialists were also at the Provincial Hospital for Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine in Wuhan, where Zhang Jixian works, whom the Chinese authorities identify as the first doctor to have reported to his superiors the existence of an unknown virus at the end of December 2019.
On Friday, after visiting a hospital where some of the first patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 were treated, Peter Daszak wrote that the team had “talked openly” with clinicians and other staff at another hospital in Wuhan which received patients at the beginning of the pandemic: “These are important meetings to help us better understand what happened in the early days of covid-19”.