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7 months on, WHO still gropes for pandemic source

3 weeks in China, team works on terms of reference

Over the past three months, the number of cases has increased more than fivefold to 17.5 million, and the number of deaths has more than tripled, to 680,000, data from WHO shows.

By B N KUMAR

MUMBAI, Aug 03, 2020: It’s back square one. The World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to grope for the source of COVID-19 while declaring that there’s no silver bullet at the moment to tackle the pandemic and there might never be one.

Over the past three months, the number of cases has increased more than fivefold to 17.5 million, and the number of deaths has more than tripled, to 680,000, data from WHO shows.

Now, even three weeks after a World Health Organisation (WHO) team has landed in China to study the source of COVID-19, the issue is where it all began seven months ago.

Epidemiological studies will begin in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the early cases, WHO said in its latest statement to media.

“One of the areas that we have been continuing to study is the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19. The WHO advance team that travelled to China has now concluded their mission to lay the groundwork for further joint efforts to identify the virus origins. As a result of these efforts, WHO and Chinese experts have drafted the Terms of Reference for the studies and programme of work for an international team, led by WHO,” the organisation’s director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The international team will include leading scientists and researchers from China and around the world. Epidemiological studies will begin in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the early cases. Evidence and hypotheses generated through this work will lay the ground for further, longer-term studies, Dr Tedors said clearly indicating that there is no progress whatsoever.

A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be, Dr Tedros said.

“For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control. Testing, isolating and treating patients, and tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all,” he said.

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