Two ICMR scientists are part of new 26-member WHO team to probe the origins of COVID in China


As a major recognition for India, former ICMR Director Dr R Gangakhedkar and ICMR National President Dr CG Pandit were included in the 26-member Scientific Advisory Group on Origin of New Pathogens (SAGO) to investigate the origins of the SARS CoV2 virus. Stressing that this nomination illustrates the ICMR’s commitment to future pandemic preparedness, the ICMR congratulated the duo on their selection. The new 26-member team will investigate the origins of the COVID-19 virus after the initial World Health Organization (WHO) investigation was inconclusive.

ICMR welcomes the inclusion of Dr Gangakhedkar in the WHO group

The WHO on Wednesday said its new advisory group on dangerous infections could be the “last chance” to determine the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and urged China to provide data on the first cases. The 26-member team includes Raman Gangakhedkar from ICMR, Dr CG Pandit National Chair abd and Yungui Yang from the Beijing Genomics Institute at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. India was one of the first nations to vote for a full investigation into the origins of COVID from the Wuhan lab.

“Just let me reiterate what we have said so far. We have our interest in further studies and data on this question of the origin (of the coronavirus) and the need for understanding and cooperation from all parties involved, ”MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi said, asked about the new SAGO team at a press conference. The Indian side, he said, was gathering details of what the new WHO decision would entail. The 10-member initial investigation team consisted of experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.

WHO investigation still inconclusive

In early 2021, an international mission to China to probe the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic proved inconclusive. A long-delayed report by the team of international experts sent to Wuhan and their Chinese counterparts did not draw any firm conclusions about the origins of the pandemic. Instead, they ranked a number of hypotheses based on how likely they were to believe they were.

The report said the virus leaping from bats to humans via an intermediate animal was the most likely scenario, while it said a theory involving the virus leaking from a lab was “extremely unlikely.” The investigation and the report were also criticized for lack of transparency and access, and for failing to further assess the theory of laboratory leaks. China has always categorically rejected this theory, but a number of prominent international scientists have said that further and more scientific examination of the theory is needed.

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