India’s leading epidemiologist among WHO’s scientific advisory group for origins of novel pathogens
India on Thursday reiterated the demand for finding the origins of COVID-19, a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) 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. C G 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,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing. 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.
Meanwhile, India decided to resume COVID-19 vaccine export to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Iran. MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the Government has decided to send the supplies to the neighbourhood initially.
“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. But many countries including the US had raised objections against the report.
Following the 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.
Meanwhile, India decided to resume COVID-19 vaccine export to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Iran. MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the Government has decided to send the supplies to the neighbourhood initially. India, the world’s largest producer of vaccines overall, suspended exports of COVID-19 vaccines in April to focus on inoculating its own population following a sudden spike in infections. “As far as I know, vaccines have already gone to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Iran. We are constantly monitoring and reviewing the situation,” he said. Bagchi said the decision on further supplies will be based on India’s production and demand. “We will decide on further supplies based on our production and demand,” he said.
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