China has refused to provide green data on the first cases of COVID-19 to a World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the epidemic, said one of the group’s investigators, which may be a complex attempt to understand how the disease started.
The team requested raw patient data from 174 cases of COVID-19 China received since the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, and other cases, but only given a summary, said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious disease specialist and member of the group.
Raw data such as that is known as “line listing”, he said, and is generally anonymous but contains details such as what questions are asked of individual patients, their answers and how their answers were analyzed.
“That’s a normal part of the investigation into the outbreak,” he told Reuters on Saturday in a video call from Sydney, where he is currently in solitary confinement.
He said the availability of raw data was very important because it was only part of the 174 cases raised by the Huanan market, which is now the complete seafood center in Wuhan where the virus was originally found. “That’s why we insist on asking for that,” he said.
While Chinese authorities were offering a number of items, he said the issue of access to raw patient information would be discussed in the group’s final report. They said that the WHO people certainly felt that they had received more information than they had received in the previous last years.
A summary of the group’s results could be released early next week, the WHO said on Friday.
The WHO-led investigation was plagued by delays, concerns over the discovery and conflict between Beijing and Washington, accusing China of concealing the magnitude of the initial outbreak and criticizing the terms of the trip, when Chinese experts conducted the first phase of the study.
The team, which arrived in China in January and spent four weeks investigating the cause of the outbreak of COVID-19, was restricted to visits planned by its Chinese authorities and barred from contact with members of the public, due to health restrictions. disposed of in hotel divisions.
China’s refusal to provide green information in the first cases of COVID-19 was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday. The WHO has not responded to Reuters’s request for comment.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to the request for comment but Beijing had previously defended its visibility in dealing with the emergence and its co-operation with the WHO.
Dwyer said the work done within the WHO team was consistent but there were occasional “disputes” with Chinese counterparts regarding the interpretation and significance of the data, which he described as “natural” in such probes.
He said that they may be talking about cold chains and they may be more aggressive with what data shows than we might be, but that is natural. He also said that whether there is political pressure to have different views, he does not know. It may be, but it’s hard to know.
Cold chain refers to the distribution and trade of cold food. Beijing sought to cast doubt on the view that the coronavirus originated in China, pointing to frozen food from abroad as a channel.
On Tuesday, Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO team, told a news conference that transmission of the virus through cold food was possible, but pointed to marketers selling frozen animal products including wildlife as a way to further study.
Embarek also said the team did not look forward to the idea that the virus had escaped the laboratory, which they considered impossible. Former US President Donald Trump’s officials have said he suspects the virus may have escaped the Wuhan board, which Beijing strongly denied. “It’s been one feeling,” Dwyer said. “It was definitely not a political thing.”