An international delegation traveled to the city of Wuhan last month in order to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, there is “growing controversy” over the World Health Organization investigation “after one of its members said China had refused to hand over key data, and the US national security adviser said he had ‘deep concerns’ about the initial findings” reports The Guardian.
Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious disease expert on the team told Reuters they were only given a summary of the raw patient data. Reuters reported that the team requested “raw patient data” on 174 cases from the early phase of the outbreak in Wuhan in December of 2019.
Dwyer said the team was only given a “summary.” The raw data, known as “line listings” contain details such as what questions were asked of the patients, their responses and how their responses were analyzed. “That’s standard practice for an outbreak investigation,” Dwyer told Reuters.
Dwyer explained the importance because only half of the 174 cases had been exposed to the Huanan market where the virus was initially detected. “That’s why we’ve persisted to ask for that” said Dwyer. “Why that doesn’t happen, I couldn’t comment. Whether it’s political or time or it’s difficult…But whether there are any other reasons why the data isn’t available, I don’t know. One would only speculate.”
Dwyer did say the World Health Organization “certainly felt that they had received much much more data than they had ever received in the previous year. So that in itself is an advance. The WHO said its findings could be released as early as this upcoming week.
Reuters reported that the team spent four weeks in China researching the outbreak origins, but were “limited to visits organized by their Chinese hosts and prevented from contact with community members, due to health restrictions. The first two weeks were spent in hotel quarantine.”
Dwyer said working with their Chinese counterparts were harmonious, but consisted of “natural” arguments over interpretation and significance of data. Dwyer said that while such arguments are indeed “natural,” “whether there’s political pressure to have different opinions, I don’t know. There may well be, but it’s hard to know.”
A zoologist and also a member of the WHO mission, Peter Daszak, tweeted his disagreement that China may have refused to hand over important data, tweeting “This was NOT my experience on @WHO mission. As a lead of animal/environment working group I found trust & openness w/my China counterparts. We DID get access to critical new data throughout. We DID increase our understanding of likely spillover pathways.”