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The fierce political battle behind the WHO Wuhan mission

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The World Health Organization has announced this on several occasions. In vain. The long-awaited report of the WHO independent mission to Wuhan to try to identify the origin of the Sars-CoV-2 virus has still not been published. It could be delivered to the member states of the organization on Monday, then presented to the press in the wake. Behind these delays which irritate certain chancelleries, one suspects a fierce political battle between Beijing and Washington and perhaps even between the experts of the mission, including a Dutchman, an Australian, an American, a German, a Russian, a Qatari, a British and a number of Chinese.

Read: The quest to discover the origins of Covid-19

Little factual report

We also inevitably wonder about the content of this 400-page document resulting from the work of a so-called independent mission. However, the latter, which had to wait months before obtaining the green light from Beijing, was able to be carried out after China had approved a work program. The document itself must obtain the approval of the Middle Empire.

It is undoubtedly around its content that tensions emerge. A good connoisseur of the file underlines: “The publication delays are suspect. It will not be a factual report that we can fully trust. That doesn’t mean it will be a bad report, but the difficulty of making it public illustrates the terrible tussle that must take place behind the scenes. ”

A researcher at the Global Health Center of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Sara Davis knows China well from having worked there. She notes: “The current political environment is extraordinarily difficult in China to carry out such a mission. It’s almost impossible to produce a truly independent report. ” The researcher, who also blames the Trump administration for creating a toxic atmosphere around the WHO, speaks of the upcoming report in these terms: “I hope for the best, but I fear the worst.”

Read also: After a year of pandemic, what results for the WHO?

“Image damage”

Another health expert does not see how such a mission that took place over a month, including quarantine, can lead to definitive scientific evidence on Covid-19. But he fears a relative vacuity of the report: “WHO pushed for this mission to take place. If now the document does not add anything substantial, it will suffer image damage. “

But China could not come out unscathed either: “If the report reveals incriminating, even explosive, facts, it will be rather better for the WHO. For China on the other hand, it will have to do the roundabout, he continues. But it will suffer even more damage if it locks everything down for lack of transparency. ”

Inspection power

The hypotheses, analysis Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, are on the table: Sars-CoV-2 has been transmitted from wildlife to an intermediate host, genus pangolin or by the bias of domesticated animals for breeding. It can also result from a leak from a laboratory including the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Chinese advance a final hypothesis: it would come from elsewhere, in particular from the United States.

Antoine Flahault hopes that the document will clearly show the need to give the WHO real powers of inspection. But also that the report will be the product of a certain academic independence. “If, among the experts, some feel cheated, he promises, they will know how to say it publicly.” The fact remains that many people do not exclude the fact that we will never know the origin of the virus.

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