India reiterates demand for finding origin of COVID-19

India reiterates demand for finding origin of COVID-19
People going abroad wait to register for COVID vaccination during a special drive at Central College, in Bengaluru on Wednesday, 23 June 2021. [File]ANI

New Delhi: India on Thursday again pitched for finding the origins of COVID-19, a day after the World Health Organisation set up a group of experts to carry forward studies on the contentious issue over a year-and-a-half after the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

India's Raman Gangakhedkar, a renowned epidemiologist and Dr CG Pandit National Chair at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is among 26 members of the Scientific Advisory Group for determining the origins of the virus, according to the WHO.

"Let me just reiterate what we have stated till now. We have our interest in further studies and data on this issue of the origin and the need for understanding and cooperation by all concerned," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing.

He was asked to react on the setting up of the panel of experts to find the origins of the virus.

Bagchi said he does not have the full details of WHO's overall decision.

The setting up of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) was announced by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a news briefing on Wednesday in Geneva.

"SAGO will advise WHO on the development of a global framework to define and guide studies into the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential, including SARS-CoV-2," he said.

In a report in April, the WHO said it was unlikely that the coronavirus leaked from a lab in Wuhan and that most likely it arose in bats and then spread to humans.

The report failed to meet expectations of the US and several other leading countries.

Following publication of the report, the US and several other countries expressed concerns over Chinese authorities not providing complete data to the WHO team probing the origin of the virus.

In its reaction, India had said that it shared the need for a comprehensive and expert-led mechanism that would expeditiously investigate the origin of COVID-19 in cooperation with all stakeholders.

On Wednesday, the WHO said the 26 scientists come from several countries, and were selected from over 700 applications following a global call.

It said a two-week public consultation period will take place for the WHO to receive feedback on the proposed SAGO members.

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