The WHO virus traceability investigation has been launched, and the media have revealed that a private agreement has been reached with Beijing.

Nearly a year to the day since the new coronavirus epidemic was revealed in Wuhan, foreign and Chinese experts convened by the World Health Organization recently formally launched an investigation into the traceability of the new coronavirus through an online meeting. And The New York Times published a report on Monday revealing that WHO executives had reached a private agreement with Beijing authorities to relinquish control of the international expert group’s investigation on key issues.

Last Friday, the WHO International Expert Group held its first video exchange with Chinese experts on the tracing of the new coronavirus, marking the official launch of a joint Chinese and Chinese expert group investigation into the tracing of the new coronavirus.

The international expert group plans to travel to Wuhan

The team is said to be planning to travel to Wuhan, the first area to be hit by the outbreak, but the exact timing is still uncertain. Mike Ryan, WHO’s executive director for health emergencies, said the same day that he was “fully confident” that the international team would “conduct a site visit,” and that the network meeting was the first of its kind in the region. This is an important step in a “toxic political environment”.

By “toxic political environment”, he clearly refers to the fact that the global neocon outbreak has become highly politicized. It is widely believed that by concealing the outbreak in its early stages, Chinese officials lost valuable time in developing preparedness measures, which ultimately led to the global spread of the new coronavirus. But Beijing authorities insist that they have always informed the international community about the outbreak in an open and transparent manner.

Li Dunhou, a former professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US, said that the “on-the-ground investigation” planned by the international team of experts in China would hardly yield any important findings.

I think it depends largely on what kind of investigation the group is going to do, especially in the laboratories (of the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research),” he said. If the Chinese keep good records of their work and allow these experts to interview anyone without restriction, they may also get some important information.”

Li Dunhou specifically mentioned the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research. There is a public opinion that the staff of this research institute directly under the Chinese Academy of Sciences may have been improperly operated, leading to the accidental leak of the new coronavirus. He noted that the institute’s laboratory is clearly a valuable clue to the virus’ traceability, but he found it hard to believe that the Chinese government would allow the international panel of experts to interview relevant Chinese sources.

The WHO international panel of experts launched the tracing of the new coronavirus as a response to the common demands of countries. As the U.S. government’s criticism of the WHO escalated, the agency’s 194 member states unanimously agreed at its annual general assembly in May to launch an independent investigation into the WHO’s response to the new coronavirus outbreak. A resolution adopted by those member states also urged WHO to assist in investigating “the zoonotic origin and human-to-human transmission pathways of the virus,” which means tracing the virus back to its source.

Yokogawa, a political commentator who used to work in the field of medical research, said that even if the international team of experts had access to China, or even Wuhan, the significance of the traceability investigation would have been minimal.

“Part of the field investigation is to look at where the source of the disease occurred, which includes witnesses and evidence. The relevant evidence has already been cleared by the authorities several times, and the Wuhan South China Seafood Market does not appear to be the place where the virus originated at the moment, so such traceability work will not work.”

Foreign media expose WHO and China to quid pro quo

The New York Times published a lengthy report Monday revealing how China has taken control of the WHO’s investigation into the source of the virus. Citing internal documents obtained by the newspaper, as well as interviews with dozens of diplomats, scientists and public health officials, the report said the WHO made a series of concessions to Beijing authorities in order to gain access to China to conduct its investigation.

Citing documents that have never been made public, the report said the Chinese government recently approved a list of external investigators. In return, the WHO agreed to allow Chinese scientists to lead key parts of the investigation, including the first patients in the country and the role of South China’s seafood market in the spread of the outbreak. The document also indicates that an international WHO panel of experts will review and “expand, not duplicate” the Chinese research.

The report quoted former WHO legal adviser Gian Luca Burci as saying that the WHO had made gaining access to China a priority, but that if the agency got to the bottom of this, they would lose their soft power.

Political commentator Yokogawa said the report’s revelations made it clear that WHO’s work on virus traceability in China was a “political show”.

“This means that the WHO’s traceability investigation is a public relations exercise as a way to try to reduce accusations against it, and the agency has no interest in the investigation,”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Monday that the Chinese side shared their research progress in areas such as virus traceability and transmission pathways with the international panel of experts at a video conference last week, and the two sides also agreed to continue scientific exchanges on traceability, but he did not mention that the WHO panel of experts would visit China to conduct the investigation.