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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus  (AFP)
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (AFP)

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

  • 'Let's not politicize the probe into coronavirus origins, create tensions or barriers,' says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
  • China has been pushing a narrative via state media that the virus existed abroad before it was discovered in the central city of Wuhan

The World Health Organization's director-general urged countries on Monday not to politicize the hunt for the origins of the novel coronavirus as that would create tensions or barriers in learning the truth.

"I would like to assure you that the WHO's position is very, very clear. We need to know the origin of this virus because it can help us to prevent future outbreaks," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a daily briefing.

"There is nothing to hide. We want to know the origin, and that's it."

Chinese state media have said the virus existed abroad before it was discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, citing the presence of coronavirus on imported frozen food packaging and scientific papers saying it had been circulating in Europe last year.

"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.

He repeated that the WHO intended to send researchers to the Wuhan food market to probe the virus origins further.

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."

With agency inputs

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