China refused to provide the WHO team with raw data on early COVID cases, team member says By Reuters

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© Reuters. People wearing masks descend a ladder after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shanghai

By Brenda Goh SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China refused to provide raw data on early COVID-19 cases to a team led by the World Health Organization investigating the origins of the pandemic, one of the team’s researchers said. , which could complicate efforts to understand how the outbreak occurred. it started. The team had requested raw patient data on the 174 COVID-19 cases that China had identified in the initial phase of the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but only provided a summary. . said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious disease expert who is a member of the team. Such raw data is known as “line lists,” he said, and is typically anonymized but contains details such as what questions were asked of individual patients, their responses, and how their responses were analyzed. “That is standard practice for investigating an outbreak,” he told Reuters on Saturday via video call from Sydney, where he is currently in quarantine. He said gaining access to the raw data was especially important, as only half of the 174 cases were exposed to the Huanan market, the now-closed wholesale seafood hub in Wuhan, where the virus was initially detected. “That’s why we have insisted on asking for that,” he said. “Why that does not happen, I can not comment. If it is political, time or difficult … But if there are other reasons why the data is not available, I do not know. One would only speculate.” While the authorities Chinas provided a large amount of material, said the issue of access to raw patient data would be mentioned in the team’s final report. “The people at WHO certainly felt that they had received much more data than they had the previous year. So that in itself is progress.” A summary of the team’s findings could be published next week, the WHO said on Friday. The WHO-led investigation was plagued by delays, access concerns and disputes between Beijing and Washington, which accused China of concealing the scope of the initial outbreak and criticized the terms of the visit, according to which Chinese experts carried out the first phase of the investigation. . The team, which arrived in China in January and spent four weeks investigating the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, limited itself to visits organized by its Chinese hosts and was prevented from contacting community members due to health restrictions. The first two weeks were spent in hotel quarantine. China’s refusal to release raw data on early COVID-19 cases was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday. The WHO did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Beijing has previously defended its transparency in handling the outbreak and its cooperation with the WHO mission. HARMONIOUS WITH ARGUMENTS Dwyer said that the work within the WHO team was harmonious, but that there were “discussions” at times with their Chinese counterparts about the interpretation and meaning of the data, which he described as “natural” in such investigations. “We could have a talk about the cold chain and they could be more assertive about what the data shows than what we could have been, but that’s natural. I don’t know if there is political pressure to have different opinions. Ser, but it is hard to tell. ” The cold chain refers to the transport and trade of frozen food. Beijing has tried to cast doubt on the notion that the coronavirus originated in China, pointing to imported frozen food as a conduit. On Tuesday, Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO delegation, told a press conference that transmission of the virus through frozen food is a possibility, but pointed to market vendors selling frozen animal products, including animals. wild farm, as a potential avenue warranting further study. . Embarek also said the team was not further investigating the theory that the virus escaped from a laboratory, which it considered highly unlikely. The previous US administration of President Donald Trump had said it suspected the virus may have escaped from a Wuhan laboratory, which Beijing flatly denies. “It was a unanimous sentiment,” Dwyer said. “It was not a political coup at all.”