Written by 12:31 PM News

‘We need to know origin of Covid-19 to prevent future outbreaks’: WHO chief

The World Health Organization insisted Monday it would do everything possible to find the animal origins of Covid-19, insisting that knowledge was vital to preventing future outbreaks.

“We want to know the origin and we will do everything to know the origin,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

He insisted the UN health agency was intent on getting to the bottom of the mystery, and urged critics who have accused it of handing the reins of the probe to China to stop “politicising” the issue.

“WHO’s position is very, very clear. We need to know the origin of this virus, because it can help us prevent future outbreaks,” Tedros said.

The United States, which with more than 262,000 deaths is the country hardest hit by the pandemic, has been harshly critical of the WHO’s handling of the crisis and has accused it of kowtowing to China and of dragging its feet on investigating how the outbreak first started.

“We’re doing everything to make sure that we know the origin. Some have been politicising this. Our position is very clear that we’ll start the study from Wuhan, know what has happened there and based on findings, to explore if there’re other avenues,” he said.

Tedros also said that Brazil has to be “very, very serious” in face of rising Covid cases and deaths, calls the trend “very, very worrisome”.

Brazil registered 24,468 new cases and 272 more deaths on Sunday, bringing its national caseload to 6,314,740 and death toll to 172,833, the Health Ministry said.

When asked about upcoming ski season in Europe, WHO’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan said risk is not skiing itself but airports, buses, ski lifts, apres ski. “We would ask that all countries look at ski season and other reasons for mass gatherings very, very carefully,” said Ryan.

He further said that wealthy countries have run health systems like a low-cost airline model and the world is paying the price for that now.

“If we forget about this pandemic, afterwards we are likely to experience same or worse within our lifetimes,” said Ryan.

“I think it’s highly speculative for us to say that the disease did not emerge in China,” Ryan said at a virtual briefing in Geneva a couple of days ago after being asked if COVID-19 could have first emerged outside China.

“It is clear from a public health perspective that you start your investigations where the human cases first emerged,” he added, saying that evidence might then lead to other places. The WHO has been accused by the Trump administration of being “China-centric”, allegations it has repeatedly denied.

Mexico is in “bad shape” and needs to get serious in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization’s director-general said on Monday.

“Mexico is in bad shape,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference. “The number of cases doubled and the number of deaths doubled… we would like to ask Mexico to be very serious.”

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