Rabu, 10 Februari 2021

Australian scientist on WHO mission confident COVID-19 originated in China - Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian scientist on the small team of World Health Organisation experts investigating the origins of COVID-19 says he believes the virus began in China, despite WHO’s official findings remaining inconclusive.

Professor Dominic Dwyer, a microbiologist and infectious diseases expert with NSW Health, was the sole Australian among a 14-strong WHO team in Wuhan that worked to identify the source of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it started in China,” Professor Dwyer told Nine News. “I think the evidence for it starting elsewhere in the world is actually very limited. There is some evidence but it’s not really very good.”

Professor Dwyer waves at journalists from a hotel room balcony in Wuhan on January 29.

Professor Dwyer waves at journalists from a hotel room balcony in Wuhan on January 29. Credit:AP

Professor Dwyer, who is in hotel quarantine in Sydney after flying back from China on Wednesday, said the “most likely source” of the virus was bats, before another animal such as a cat passed it on to humans.


“I think the explosion in the market in Wuhan was really an amplifying event. The virus had probably been circulating [in the community] for some good few weeks beforehand,” he said.

“The results aren’t definitive like people would expect, but that was never going to happen.”

Despite some “heated” moments during the investigation, Professor Dwyer said “the co-operation between both sides was good”.

“The Chinese were very hospitable hosts,” he said. “There were some clear differences of opinion and there were some quite firm and heated exchanges over things but, in general, everyone was trying to do the right thing and certainly WHO got more data than they’ve ever had before, and that’s some real progress.”

WHO team leader Peter Ben Embarek said the mission was useful despite being inconclusive.

“Did we change the picture dramatically compared to what we had before? I don’t think so,” he said. “Did we improve our understanding and add details? Absolutely.”

The group of 14 scientists arrived in China on January 14 but had to undergo a fortnight of quarantine before being allowed into the field.

In a whirlwind two-week period, the team of virologists, epidemiologists, veterinarian and food safety specialists visited key sites that have been related to the outbreak of the disease which has killed 2.3 million people.

The investigation included the Huanan Seafood Market, where the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Hubei Province Centre for Disease Control and the Prevention and the Hubei Provincial Hospital, where patients sick with a mystery disease first overwhelmed hospital workers in December 2019.

Dominic Dwyer of a World Health Organisation team walks in the cordoned hotel area in Wuhan.

Dominic Dwyer of a World Health Organisation team walks in the cordoned hotel area in Wuhan.Credit:Ng Han Guan

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was one of the first world leaders to call for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, an action that sparked a diplomatic backlash from China as it launched more than $20 billion in trade strikes on half-a-dozen Australian industries.

Professor Dwyer said the most surprising part of the investigation was the political prominence it carried.

“It’s one thing discussing the science – all of us are used to doing that. It’s another talking around the politics around this and [to] see responses change around the politics.”

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2021-02-10 09:51:00Z

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