New Delhi: As the World Health Organisation announced the setting up of a scientific advisory group aimed at identifying the origin of Covid-19, India said on Thursday that it has an interest in further studies and data into the origin of the virus, and the need for understanding it, and also on the cooperation of all parties concerned.
The World Health Organisation announced the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins on Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, which will include scientists from the U.S., China and about two dozen other countries.
It will be charged with answering the question of how the novel coronavirus first infected humans and also be responsible for establishing a framework to combat future pandemics
Answering a query on the issue, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “We saw some media announcement on this, we don’t have the full details of what exactly it entails.”
“Let me reiterate that what we’ve stated till now, that is, we have our interest in further studies and data on this issue of the origin of the virus; and the need for understanding it and cooperation by all concerned. We’ll also try to get details of what exactly has been announced,” he added.
China continues to resist efforts to study the possible origin of the virus that originated in Wuhan.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday warned against what it called possible “political manipulation” of a renewed probe by the WHO into the origins of the coronavirus.
During a visit by a WHO team in February, China was accused of withholding raw data on early cases and has resisted calls for further investigation, and instead accused the US and others of politicizing the matter.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China would “continue to support and participate in global scientific tracing and firmly oppose any forms of political manipulation.”
“We hope that all parties concerned, including the WHO secretariat and the advisory group, will effectively uphold an objective and responsible scientific attitude,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
“The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential, and requires a broad range of expertise.”
Beijing rejected a plan for a second phase of the probe in July that might delve into various hypotheses about the origin of the virus, including that it escaped from a Chinese government lab in the city of Wuhan.
The so-called “lab-leak theory” was initially dismissed by WHO, but has gained traction in recent months, fuelled in part by Beijing’s secrecy.