The World Health Organisation still wants to find out whether there were small epidemics of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in China before the first known cases in Wuhan in December 2019, Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, said on Friday.
Koopmans was a member of the WHO team that returned from the Chinese city after an investigation mission on the origin of the virus. The team found no conclusive evidence of COVID-19 cases before December 2019.
However, an in-depth examination of Chinese statistics on patients shows that 92 patients who fell ill before the pandemic showed symptoms akin to COVID-19, Mr. Koopmans said during an online WHO press conference.
Recent blood tests conducted on these patients did not reveal any antibodies, but that could be due to the time that had elapsed. The 2019 examples stocked in Chinese blood banks could provide some answers. The expert said. “Discussions are under way in China to be able to access them, she added.
The WHO mission included scientists from China and eight other countries. It was unable to determine which animals first spread the virus to humans. Pangolins and bats have been identified as possible sources.
One year after the virus began to spread to various countries, infections are down globally. While the number of COVID-19 cases has gone down for four consecutive weeks, it is too early for the world to let its guard down, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the press conference.
This is not the time for countries to relax measures, he warned from Geneva. “We should all feel encouraged, but complacency is as dangerous as the virus itself,” the WHO head added
Analysing the figures, Mr. Tedros said the lowest figures were based on strict public health measures.
WHO reported 3.1 million new cases of COVID-19 last week, compared to a peak of about five million during the first week of 2021.
Weekly death tolls reached a peak of 100,000 in mid-January before going down to 88,000 last week.