China won’t grant WHO team access to raw data of early Covid-19 cases

Chinese authorities have refused grant raw data on early Covid-19 cases to the World Health Organization (WHO) team probing the origins of the pandemic.

According to Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious disease expert, the WHO mission had requested raw patient data on 174 cases that China had identified from the early phase of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but was only provided with a summary.

Gaining access to the raw data was especially important since only half of the 174 cases had exposure to the Huanan market, the now-shuttered wholesale seafood centre in Wuhan where the virus was initially detected.

The four-week WHO mission to China to uncover the origins of the coronavirus wrapped up earlier this week with no conclusive findings.

WHO’s probe had been plagued by delay, concern over access and bickering between Beijing and Washington, which accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

The team, which arrived in China in January, was limited to visits organised by their Chinese hosts and prevented from contact with community members, due to health restrictions.

The WHO said a summary of the team’s findings could be released as early as the third week of February.