WHO calls on governments to cooperate to accelerate studies into origins of COVID-19

SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization has called for all governments to cooperate to accelerate studies into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and to depoliticize the situation.

WHO reiterates that the search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is not and should not be an exercise in attributing blame, finger-pointing or political point-scoring,” it said in a statement.

Following the publication of the WHO-China joint report of the phase one studies on the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in March 2021, WHO has outlined the next series of studies that need to be undertaken and continues to be in discussions with Member States and experts on next steps.

WHO’s priority is for scientists to build on the first phase of studies, implement the recommendations outlined in the March 2021 report and accelerate scientific efforts on all hypotheses. Searching for the origins of any novel pathogen is a difficult process, which is based on science, and takes collaboration, dedication and time.

Building on what has already been learned, the next series of studies would include a further examination of the raw data from the earliest cases and sera from potential early cases in 2019.

WHO is working with a number of countries that have reported detection of SARS-CoV-2 in samples from stored biological specimens from 2019.

In Italy, WHO facilitated an independent evaluation by international laboratories of the findings of one such study, which included the blind retesting of pre-pandemic blood samples.

Sharing raw data and giving permission for the retesting of samples in labs outside of Italy reflects scientific solidarity at its best and is no different from what we encourage all countries, including China, to support so that we can advance the studies of the origins quickly and effectively.

The International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, a new advisory group for WHO, will be responsible for advising WHO on the development of a global framework to systematically study the emergence of future emerging pathogens with pandemic potential.

Searching for the origins of a novel virus is an immensely difficult scientific task that takes time. WHO is committed to following the science, and we call on all governments to put differences aside and work together to provide all data and access required so that the next series of studies can be commenced as soon as possible.

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