Oct. 14, 2021 -- The World Health Organization has proposed a group of experts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic after an earlier WHO investigation in China was met with widespread criticism.
The 26 experts come from a field of 700 people with geographical diversity and expertise in a range of fields, WHO said in a statement. WHO will receive feedback on the proposed members before the first meeting of the WHO Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO).
“Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential, and requires a broad range of expertise,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
Two of the nominees are Inger Damon, MD, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Yang Yungui, deputy director of the Beijing Institute of Genomics from China’s national natural sciences academy.
The first WHO investigative team traveled to Wuhan, China, earlier this year and published an analysis that concluded it was “extremely unlikely” the virus escaped from a Chinese lab, the Associated Press reported. The group said Chinese scientists refused to share critical information with them.
Health authorities around the world, including Ghebreyesus, said it was premature to conclude the spread of the virus wasn’t caused by an accidental lab leak, the Associated Press said.
In other news from WHO, the organization said weekly global COVID cases and deaths dropped last week to continue a trend that began in late August.
WHO reported 2.9 million new weekly cases, a drop of 6.76% from the previous week, and about 47,000 deaths, a 9.5% drop. Cases rose in Europe by 7% and dropped in other continents.
Since the pandemic began, WHO has recorded 238.5 million confirmed COVID cases in the world and 4.9 million COVID deaths.