Mar 30, 2021
World Health Organization (WHO) Briefing on COVID-19 Origin Report Transcript March 30
WHO officials held a press briefing on March 30, 2021 to discuss their report on the origins of the COVID-19 virus. They reported that the virus likely came from an animal, not a lab. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Derek Yashargovich : (00:48)
Hello, good evening, good afternoon, or good morning to everyone. My name is [Derek Yashargovich and 00:00:53] I’m welcoming you to a press conference regarding the publication of the report that was looking into origin of SARS-CoV-2 virus. The report itself has just been published on our website. We have sent the link to the webpage, where report is placed, as well as the press release, and the opening remarks by Dr. [Tedris 00:01:26] at today’s meeting with member states where the report was presented.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:33)
The report, as I said, describes the findings of the Wuhan field visits that took place from January 14th to February 10th, and that was conducted by a group of international scientists and Chinese scientists as mandated by the World Health Assembly resolution that was adopted in May last year. So here today, we are to present those findings to the members of the media.
Derek Yashargovich : (02:06)
We have with us I hope all 10 of our international experts, and I will read their names. Here with me me in WHO studio is Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, who was a team lead for the Wuhan Field Mission, and who is our expert at the WHO for food safety and zoonotic diseases.
Derek Yashargovich : (02:35)
So the full names and affiliation of international experts, you can find on our website, if you just look for, “WHO origin of the virus,” but I will read just their names. We have with us Professor Thea Fisher. We have Professor John Watson, Professor Dr. Marion Koopmans, Professor Dr. Dominic Dwyer. We have a Vladimir Dedkov, Dr. Hung Nguyen. We have Professor Dr. Fabian Leendetz, Dr. Peter Daszak, Dr. Farag El Moubasher, and Professor Dr. Ken Maeda.
Derek Yashargovich : (03:13)
Before we start with the opening remarks, I will just remind journalists that to be a short with their questions. And we will take really only one question per journalists. So if you ask many, I will have to decide which one I like.
Derek Yashargovich : (03:33)
Also we will send, after the press briefing, all the audio and video material, and if necessary some other material that Dr. Ben Embarek may be using in his opening remarks.
Derek Yashargovich : (03:51)
We that, I will give the floor to Dr. Ben Embarek, and then we will hear from other team members. Dr. Ben Embarek.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (04:01)
Thank you, Derek. And a welcome to all of you for this press conference.
Derek Yashargovich : (04:05)
Sorry for this small hiccup.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (04:15)
So again, welcome. Thank you Derek, and welcome to this press conference on the result and outcome of the joint study into the origin of the virus that was conducted in Wuhan, China in January and early February, 2021.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (04:36)
As you know, we went there as part of a long process that started last summer, where we agreed on the series of studies to be conducted to help us in the process of better understanding the origin of the virus. That was including a series of epidemiological studies, looking into the human side of the start of the outbreak, looking at the early cases in December ’19, trying to find earlier cases than the one we knew, and also looking at other data available prior to December, samples kept from that time, data from surveillance systems of different syndrome and diseases that could give us clue about the possibility of having earlier cases than December, 2019.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (05:26)
We also look at the markets where the first case were linked to, the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan. And we also looked at many studies that were conducted in the past few months in China on a different animal species, trying to find, or have a better idea of whether some animal species would be harboring this virus.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (05:55)
We looked at all these studies, we received a lot of data, raw data, process data, result of studies and analysis done locally, and we processed all that together with our Chinese counterparts. We also looked at molecular and genetic data available to help us link all the other pieces together. We looked at and analyzed all the sequences, genetic sequences of the virus coming from different sources in December ’19, and January, 2020, to try to give us a better picture of what we could find about the start of this event.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (06:38)
In terms of key data we looked at, on the epidemiology side, we looked among other things, into data coming out of different surveillance systems. Particular surveillance systems looking at cases of fever, cases of unspecified pneumonia, ILI, and airway systems, which are respiratory syndromes that are picked up by different health facilities.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (07:10)
So we looked at more than 76,000 cases of these symptomatic individuals in the months before December to try to look if anything there could look like COVID cases that had not been picked up before. But at the end of the day, we didn’t find anything, but this is only a first set of studies. And among other things in our recommendation is to look back in more detail into many of these data sets.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (07:38)
We also looked at the data around the confirmed cases in December, 2019, the 174 cases we know were confirmed in at that time in Wuhan. And there clearly during the second half of December, we could see a surge of cases, both among the ones linked to the market, but increasingly as we move towards the end of December, increasingly cases not linked with the market, indicating that the disease was already at that time spreading outside in, in different part of Wuhan. And therefore the more we move into the second half of December, the less relevant the market itself become, because then the disease is spreading around.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (08:29)
We also looked at data from mortality statistics, data to see, could we see any excess mortality, any sign of an excess number of deaths in the period before December, 2019 in and around Wuhan, and also elsewhere in the province? And we could not there see anything happening before December, and clearly looking at this type of data we could see that an upsurge of mortality in the numbers of deaths somehow in January, towards the start of January, 2020 in Wuhan, compatible with the fact that the number of cases was growing already at the end of December in the city.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (09:20)
And we also could see that outside Wuhan this increase in mortality came a little bit later, indicating again, that the event, at least in the province, started in Wuhan and then moved more and more outside Wuhan.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (09:37)
We also looked of course at the market, the Huanan Market, we went there, and it’s closed market now for more than a year, but it was still very interesting to see the setting, to see the state of the physical environment in which these events unfolded more than a year ago.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (09:55)
And we also were able to map the entire market, it’s a huge market with more than 1500 vendors and shops, and mapping all of them with the different type of product they were selling, different types of meats, poultry, seafood, wild animal meats, et cetera, and could link that with both positive environmental samples that were found in different surveys in the market, but also with the human cases, particularly in the early days of December.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (10:27)
And by putting all this data together, together with the sequencing data, we could show that the virus was circulating in the market as early as the beginning of December, 2019, but there were also cases not related to the markets outside the Huanan Market with slightly different differences in the genetic makeup of the virus these cases had, showing that there was probably some circulation in different parts of the city, unrelated to each other.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (11:08)
And remember, the cases were picked up in December, 2019 were only the severe cases. At that time, a COVID case was a case of severe pneumonia, all the mild cases were missed because they were not, at that time we didn’t know that there was many mild cases, or even asymptomatic cases. So all these other cases were never picked up. And of course they could help us get a much better understanding of the start of the epidemic if we had access, or could detect these cases.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (11:38)
We were also able, for each of the interesting vendors in the market, we were able to trace back their suppliers in particular, the shop selling farmed wild animals of much interest in our work, we could detect or identify the suppliers they were using all the way back to the farms providing and raising these animals in different provinces of the country; and in particular in some provinces where we know that bat population of interests are also there. So clearly pointing into interesting new studies to be conducted in the coming months.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (12:21)
So again, this is only a first start. We’ve only scratched the surface of this very complex set of studies that need to be conducted. And we have pointed to many additional studies that should be conducted from now on.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (12:36)
We were also able to do a lot of analysis on the genetic sequences of the virus that were isolated in December and early January at the start of the epidemic, and being able to see how these sequences were linked in evolution, meaning helping us to understand and try to understand where, and when the start of the presence of the virus could be related to.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (13:07)
And we will see that in the report, there is a lot of very detailed information and useful information that again point towards the need for very specific new studies.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (13:20)
The Chinese counterparts, ahead of our coming we’re also conducting a large number of surveys on animals, different types of animals, wild animals, animals from zoos, animals from farms, domestic animals, et cetera, dozens of thousands of animals were tested and all negative. So again, showing the difficulty of picking up a particular species as a potential intermediary host.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (13:51)
In the process of helping us to prioritize our recommendations and prioritize studies to be conducted, we also looked at what are the different possible pathways for this virus entering the human population back in 2019? And that helped us organize our thoughts and prioritize our recommendations.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (14:17)
And there, we looked at four possible pathways for the introduction of the virus. One was direct introduction from the host animal, from the reservoir, and that could be a bat or another animal where the virus had been initially present directly into the human population.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (14:33)
Then we looked at this scenario together with an intermediary host, meaning the virus would have first jump into an animal, adapted into that animal population, and then jumped and adapted to the human population.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (14:48)
And then we also look at the possibility of frozen food products or contaminated product being a vehicle for the virus, allowing the virus to enter the particular Wuhan area from further away. And there, this is interesting, lead into frozen farmed wild animal products present and sold in the market in Huanan Market are very interesting and warrant further studies to explore that that type of disease.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (15:20)
And the last one of course, was the possibility of a laboratory accident or leak. And in doing so, we looked at all the arguments for, and arguments against we had for each of these hypothesis, or each of these pathways. And we tried to stay to what are the arguments we have, the hard facts we have, we tried to stay away from suspicions, ideas, theories, and so on, because we couldn’t really use that in a systematic way for all the hypotheses to help us moving forward.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (16:01)
And in that process, we then assessed the likelihood of each of these possible pathways, and organized our recommendation towards the ones that were, as an outcome of our work, the most interesting to continue with.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (16:21)
And in particular, with regards to the current joint group, the joint group of expert between Chinese experts and international experts, where, and how this group can best and in most useful way conduct the necessary additional studies in better, again, exploring certain of these hypotheses and improving our understanding of the source of the virus.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (16:50)
In closing I’ll just say that it has been an incredible experience. We really learned a lot. You will see if you dig into the report, it’s a huge report, can understand the challenge of going through that in a short period of time, but it’s a huge report with a lot, a lot of new knowledge, a lot of data, a lot of new information. And I think a lot of work will continue to come out of these initial studies.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (17:21)
We also of course, have to thank hundreds and hundreds of people who made this work possible, both in the host country, in China, facilitating all our work, gathering data, generating data together with us, but also a huge logistical challenge to get us to Wuhan and stay there for months. As you know, traveling these days, it’s not easy. Bringing an entire team from the outside is not easy. So it has been really challenging time for the whole team to get there, do the work, and come out again.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (17:58)
So on this, I would like to thank you all and give the floor over to you Derek. Derek, over to you please.
Derek Yashargovich : (18:05)
Thank you very much Peter. Just two technical things. First is Dr. Ben Embarek has used some slides that those who are on Zoom were able to see, but those following us through broadcasters or through social media we’re not able to see. And we may send these slides for everyone to be able to see them after the press conference.
Derek Yashargovich : (18:30)
I also understand that for journalists who are on Zoom, they have missed the introduction that I made. So I’ll just briefly repeat that the report has been posted some 15 minutes before the beginning of the press briefing at the webpage. And we have sent the link to that webpage alongside with the press release to our media list.
Derek Yashargovich : (18:54)
You may contact a media inquiries, at the WTO at the IMT if you have not received any of that. Just to repeat that we have 10 scientists with us, and I will read one more time the names for our journalists who have not heard me the first time. So Professor Dr. Thea Fisher, Professor John Watson, Professor Dr. Marion Koopmans, Professor Dr. Dominic Dwyer, Vladimir Dedkov, Dr. Hung Nguyen, Professor Dr. Fabian Leendetz, Dr. Peter Daszak, Dr. Farag El Moubasher, and Professor Dr. Ken Maeda. Their affiliations and places they work normally you can find on our website.
Derek Yashargovich : (19:37)
So after these opening remarks from Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, we will go to the three co-chairs of subgroups. So first we’ll start with Dr. Thea Fisher, who was co-leading the group on epidemiology. Professor Dr. Fisher, the floor is yours.
Dr. Thea Fisher: (19:57)
Thank you very much. And thanks so much for a very strong presentation made by the entire team, but presented by our team lead.
Dr. Thea Fisher: (20:08)
It’s a pleasure to reach this day with the final publication of the report. And I think Peter has already really worded it very well. So from the epi side, I would just like to underscore the main findings. They are preliminary findings, of course, as this is just a very first step on an expectedly long trip to find the origin, but we have managed to come quite far with the joint work. And you have to remember, this is based on 28 days of international travel to Wuhan, of which only two weeks, 14 days, were working actually jointly together in the various teams and in the entire team.
Dr. Thea Fisher: (20:59)
So from the epi side, we have been reviewing thousands and thousands of data points. We have reviewed data points of respiratory surveillance data. We have reviewed data points of mortality data. We have looked at pharmaceutical data, and we have looked specifically and zoomed in on the already known early cases from December, 2019 in Wuhan, all in all trying to get as much information as we could looking for early cases, looking for previous smaller epidemics that were not yet identified.
Dr. Thea Fisher: (21:36)
We have looked, really scrutinized, the respiratory data. And so far, we have not been able to document any substantial transmission of SARS coronavirus in the months preceding the outbreak in December. However, we can not exclude that there have been milder cases and there might have been smaller epidemics that have gone under the radar, as with our current knowledge of COVID-
Dr. Thea Fisher: (22:03)
… radar. As with our current knowledge of COVID-19, some of these cases, and that’s actually the vast majority, they might only have mild symptoms. So this is, indeed, a possibility that we can not exclude based on the current findings. And we have made substantial amounts of recommendations. Some of the data we will recommend to revisit and re-review jointly, and that would be the next step forwards. And in addition to that, some of the very important recommendations are also that we will jointly undertake a serology study, looking at blood donors who are otherwise healthy people and look for any traces of SARS coronavirus antibodies in these populations in the months preceding the outbreak.
Dr. Thea Fisher: (22:53)
All in all, many important first preliminary findings, many important joint recommendations for the next steps. And we welcome the questions you will have to the work we have today presented here, both in the presentation and in the reports on the joint epi and the joint international team. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (23:17)
Thank you very much, Professor Fisher. Now we will go to professor Dr. Marion Koopmans who was co-leading subgroup on molecular epidemiology. Doctor?
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (23:31)
Yes. Thank you, Tarik. Also very briefly, just to emphasize that part of the work in the molecular epi team has been trying to see what we can learn from bringing together virus genomic data. We’ve all learned in this pandemic how important genomic data can be. We are seeing that used every day now. So we’ve really done an effort to look at the earliest available data, bring that together from different laboratories, going back to the original data and re-analyzing them to see what are sort of the golden sequence data from that first episode, and what can we learn from that.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (24:22)
That may seem like a very simple endeavor, but in reality, it is not, because molecular data are generated in laboratories and they are released, for instance, through the global database [inaudible 00:24:39], but they are not linked with the patients that they came from. So that was a piece of work that was needed in order to really see how the molecular data could help reconstruct the early phase of the pandemic in Wuhan.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (24:58)
The key conclusion there supported already the findings from the epidemiology that the market in Huanan has been an important amplifier event, but that they’re also already at the time of those early cases was some virus diversity, telling us there was some chains of transmission missed. So we have to dig back a little bit further.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (25:24)
And then there’s also … So what was summarized is all the genomic data that is out there now also from animal surveys before 2020 and since. And what we can learn from that about plausible hypothesis for reservoir species, and all of that is described. So I will leave it at that.
Derek Yashargovich : (25:51)
Thank you very much, Professor Koopmans. Now we will go to Dr. Peter Daszak who was co-leading the subgroup on animal and environment. Dr. Daszak?
Dr. Peter Daszak: (26:04)
Thank you very much. Just briefly, two points. First of all, as you read through the report you’ll see quite a significant amount of work that’s being conducted since really the very beginnings of this outbreak in China to try and trace back the animal origins, including over 900 swabs in the Huanan seafood market. Tens of thousands of samples of animals collected, tested around China, different types of wild animals in livestock. Bats in Hubei province, where Wuhan is.
Dr. Peter Daszak: (26:36)
The second thing is, to put the animal work in the context of both the human epidemiology and the molecular what we see in the report. It all connects together in a true one health way and what we do see are some clear links and clear pathways by which this virus could have taken, that all of the evidence suggests are plausible and some that are less plausible. I think that’s how you read the report. I look forward to answering every question you have on this issue. Thanks.
Derek Yashargovich : (27:08)
Thank you very much, Dr. Daszak. So now we will open the floor for questions and we have many of them. So please, if you can introduce yourself and ask only one question. As you know, for this press briefing, we don’t have translation interpretation available, so it will have to be in English. Although many, many peoples, many languages are spoken here, but let’s try to, for us to be able to understand. So let’s start with Isabel Sacco from Spanish news agency, EFE. Isabel, unmute yourself, and please go ahead.
Isabel Sacco: (27:54)
Good afternoon. Thank you, Tarik. The report mentions the possibility of missed circulation of SARS- CoV-2 in other countries, even before the first case was detected in Wuhan. So how, Dr. Embarek do you assess the possibility that the origin of these new coronavirus was somewhere else, but not in China? Thank you.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (28:21)
Thank you for your question. We don’t think that the possible findings of indication of earlier circulation elsewhere outside China is incompatible with the current scenario. It is perfectly possible that you would have earlier cases, sporadic cases circulating in and around Wuhan before December. Let’s say November, and potentially, also October 2019, and potentially that some of them were also traveling abroad and seeding and transmitting the disease abroad. Again, in sporadic way elsewhere during November and early December. That could be possible. Don’t forget that Wuhan was a major international hub at that time with direct flight every day to most parts of the world and most big capitals of the world.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (29:18)
That earlier move of the virus outside of the area could potentially be explained in that way. This being said, until we have more data, more firm information or results pointing into that direction, the current thinking is still that we are looking at the start in and around Wuhan and moving backwards, trying to find out how it came there, and whether it came from another part of China or elsewhere.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (29:50)
That will depend on the further studies and research. But, because of the strong suspicion of certain bat species being the host of this virus and having found other relatively close virus strains to SARS-CoV-2 in the region. Also in Southeast Asia in general, where these bats are living. Is a strong indication that that’s where the source is, but we’re still working on finding the exact trace back of the virus before Wuhan. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (30:30)
Thank you very much, Dr. Peter Ben Embarek. I understand Professor Koopmans would like to add something.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (30:37)
Yes. So maybe to add that. So there is the, of course, the plausibility of bat viruses in geographically neighboring countries, but there’s also two pieces of information that really also are why this recommendation is there.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (30:59)
One is that if you look at the earliest sequences, there is already clusters of identical viruses in two other provinces in China. The second is, that there is some literature from outside of China, particularly in Europe, that is suggestive of earlier circulation. Although the methodologies there really need some scrutiny. But because of that literature, we have said, well, we need to keep an open mind and be sure that those types of pieces of information are also explored further.
Derek Yashargovich : (31:43)
Thank you very much, Professor Koopmans for that. We will now go to next question. And that’s Radio France Internationale, Guillaume [inaudible 00:31:53]. Guillaume.
Yes. Thank you, Tarik. I’d like to know more about the missing data that you’re looking after. How confident are you that China will transmit those data to upcoming missions to Wuhan if they ever happen? And would you say it is likely, possible to likely, impossible or extremely unlikely that China did try to hide some data to you?
Dr. Ben Embarek: (32:25)
Thank you. Thank you for this question. Yes, as we said, the amount of data generated all the way up to our arrival. And while we were in quarantine, in fact, colleagues in China were still generating data as a followup to some of our initial questions. So there was an incredible amount of data being generated. We got access to quite a lot of data in many different areas, but of course there are areas where we had difficulties getting down to the raw data, and there are many good reasons for that.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (33:03)
In China, like in many other countries, there are restrictions on privacy laws that forbid the sharing of data, including private details to outsiders in particular, if the data are moving out of the country. That will be exactly the same in most countries in the world, if we were going there to do any studies and we’ve done many studies in the past, and we always face the same challenges. How much and how can we share critical data with outsiders. But also because there was a large amount of data, don’t forget that some of these data sets, the one looking at 76,000 individuals, these were generated by hundreds of different healthcare centers by thousands of medical staff.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (33:57)
Just the fact of being able to extract and put all this data in a way that you could have easy access to the raw data is a challenge in itself. So therefore, where we did not have full access to all the raw data we wanted, that has been put as a recommendation for future studies. So the idea is that because we didn’t have time or because certain authorization needs to be given before we could get access to the data, all that will be and could be done in the second phase of the studies.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (34:35)
Then for the likelihood, I think it’s clear that, for us, we were engaging in discussion, we got access to a lot of data. We were asking a lot of questions. They were, as I said, challenging for sharing some type of data, and we are working towards finding solutions on how we can get access and share this data in phase two study. I see that, again, as a continuum in working closely with our Chinese counterparts on making best use of all the data that is out there. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (35:11)
Thank you, Dr. Ben Embarek. I understand we have two team members who would like to add a few points. Let’s start with Dr. [inaudible 00:35:19]
Speaker 1: (35:18)
Thank you very much. I agree fully with our team leader, Peter, on this point. I just want to add that people might need to realize that this is very short mission, and we, as the team between [inaudible 00:35:41] and China would really try to come up with some conclusion on the current status of knowledge. Actually, we can wait more and more to have more data like Peter said to come up with more conclusion. But I think that in this mission, I think that we really, at the end of the mission, working from both sides, [inaudible 00:36:03] quality risk assessment and different scenarios and pathways of likely transmission, and with different types of data you can see from tree list, and Peter mentioned before. We came up with this ranking of likelihood. So in short, I think that it’s very important as scientists, really to come up with something which the availability of data to really respond to the urgent situations that we want to know about these studies is. Over.
Derek Yashargovich : (36:34)
Thank you. Maybe last comment from Dr. Peter Daszak.
Dr. Peter Daszak: (36:39)
Briefly. I think if we look at the amounts of information, new data, that’s in the report, and just thinking about the animal side, tens of thousands of samples tested that never been published yet. Over 900 swabs from the Huanan seafood market. The data’s not been published anywhere else yet. In the process of doing this work, we did go backwards and forwards with the China team and asked for them to do further analysis, provide more evidence, more information, and they did that. So I don’t think it will be a problem to continue this momentum. If we look at the recommendations, China has agreed to follow those recommendations and we will really look forward to continuing that work. If the current report is anything to go by, we should expect to see significant new amount of information coming out in the future.
Derek Yashargovich : (37:34)
Thank you. Thank you very much to all three team members on this answer. Now we will go to Xinhua News Agency and we have Du Yang with us, if I’m not wrong. Can you please unmute yourself and go ahead?
Du Yang: (37:53)
Yep. Can you hear me?
Derek Yashargovich : (37:55)
Du Yang: (37:58)
Okay. Thank you for taking my question. What would WHO comment on the cooperation from the Chinese professionals and colleagues during the mission in Wuhan? Is there any plan from WHO to further the study on the animal source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or to send a mission to countries or regions other than China for this study? Thank you.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (38:23)
Thank you very much for this question. I think the size of the report and the amount of material and results and analysis and data in the report speaks for itself, in terms of how the collaboration went. There would never been anything like that if we did not have a very strong and good collaboration with our colleagues in China. We would then have ended up with a very small report with very few results, very few studies presented. So I think this speaks for itself, and just look at the amount of results there that will tell you everything about the depth and the intensity of the collaboration between the entire members, the whole members of the team.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (39:15)
This being said, it’s clear that there is still a lot of work to do. There is still a lot of studies and good leads that are in the recommendation of this report. This is a set of recommendation that comes out from the joint team, from both sides, from all the members of the team. Everybody stands behind these recommendations, and we anticipate that many of them, if not all of them, will be followed through and will be implemented in the coming weeks and months, hopefully. Because we owe to the world to find, or to get a better understanding of the origin of this virus.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (40:03)
This virus has really created havoc on the planet and the crisis we have never experienced before, any of us. And really, this is the minimum we can do, is to try to understand what happened, how it did happen, why, and try to prevent something similar to happen again. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (40:23)
Thank you. Professor Koopmans? Would you like to add something?
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (40:29)
The questions was addressed to WHO, but maybe as part of the external scientists team, it’s good to explain how that collaboration came about. So we were starting online in many meetings before the departure. Then had a lot of online meetings during our quarantine. Then had two weeks where we were able to meet in a big room face to face. And that’s of course what you need to really get to know each other better and to work better.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (41:04)
I think it’s really important for everyone to realize that it takes time to build up a collaboration, a spirit, in any project. Whether that’s in this situation or in a new project that you run at home. And given those limitations, I personally think we’ve come very far in the collaboration.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (41:28)
Then your question about studies in other countries. I think that already came across earlier in one of the questions. So what we said, we need to follow the leads. We cannot just go speculation, but we need to follow the leads. If there’s a lead from a supply chain tracing back to another country with, let’s say, wildlife products, that would be a potential lead. Then, yes. That would guide where to go for those studies.
Derek Yashargovich : (42:03)
Thank you very much. We will now go to Sarah Newey from Telegraph. Sarah?
Sarah Newey: (42:13)
Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I’ve seen the comments from Dr. Tedros to member states this lunchtime or earlier today, and he talks about the lab investigations into the lab not being extensive enough. I just wonder what your reaction is to that? And is that theory still going to be explored in future studies? Thank you.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (42:37)
Thank you for your question. As you know, the team was a team put together to do joint into the zoonotic origin of this virus as per the World Health Assembly resolution of last May in collaboration with our partner agencies. And this is what we put together and initiated starting last July, and will continue in the coming months. We looked at the different hypothesis as I outlined early on among other [inaudible 00:43:18] was the lab incident possibility. This is the first time that we have been able to discuss openly this possibility. Initially it was just speculations all over the place, as you’ll remember, throughout 2020.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (43:36)
Now we have a process to discuss it. We’ve put it in our report. It has been assessed. And of course, since this was not the key or main focus of the joint studies, it did not receive the same depth of attention and work as the other hypotheses. Also, because that was the assessment. That it was not something where we could see-
Dr. Ben Embarek: (44:03)
… it’s meant that it was not something where we could see strong indication that that was something we should look into and therefore, it was ranked as the least likely so to speak of the four possible pathways. Not saying that it was impossible, but not the one we would start initially going deeper into and focusing our attention on. But this being said, of course, if others, and if there is a need to further explore this and potentially other hypothesis, of course, we will continue to look into this hypothesis.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (44:42)
We have also all along said that as soon as there is new data and new evidence, new information for any of these hypothesis, we would put that into the assessment and reevaluate any of these hypothesis. So it should not be seen as a static product, it is a dynamic product. It will be fed by the result of new studies, of new evidence coming up, by new analysis. And therefore, it’s important that the entire world is supporting this work, is contributing constructively into the analysis, into the [inaudible 00:45:20] studies, supporting them, et cetera. So we collectively can, can get through it and get to the bottom of these events and better understand the origin of this virus. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (45:33)
Thank you very much, Dr. Ben Embarek. Let’s go to the next question. We have MBC and Care Simpson. Care?
Care simpson: (45:51)
Can you hear me?
Derek Yashargovich : (45:56)
It’s a bit broken. Can you try again?
Care simpson: (46:00)
Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?
Derek Yashargovich : (46:05)
Care simpson: (46:06)
Okay, great. Care Simmons at NBC News. One question just about the report you’ve published. It refers to appendices, to annexes. Have you published those? And can you just help just us navigate where to find those? And then a question substantially about the report. The report has very few clear cut conclusions. So why would you not maintain an open mind about what is worth investigating?
Derek Yashargovich : (46:42)
Thank you very much. On annexes, I think we have not published them yet, but we will do. Please check on our website, if it has not been, it should be because we were really trying to publish as soon as possible and to meet the deadline that we promised to you. Peter, would you like to take the question?
Dr. Ben Embarek: (47:07)
Yes, no apologize if the appendixes are not there, but they should be very soon up there together with the core report. They are almost as big if not bigger than the report itself and contain a lot of information as well in it. So, yes, in terms of conclusions and keeping an open mind, I think reading the report, you will see that throughout the reports, there are many conclusions on the different studies and the different data set being looked at and analyzed. So there are conclusions throughout the documents, and we of course said it immediately and have, I think said it throughout the course of the past months, that nobody would expect that this mission would have come up with the final answer and that we will have showed up at the end of the mission, holding whatever animal in our hands and said, “Here is the culprit.”
Dr. Ben Embarek: (48:11)
That was never the intention or the expectation. This is work in progress, again. And we all have to be patient and again, support the logic of our work, which is to start from where the first case were identified, detected in Wuhan and looking at that event, that phase, that environment, and then expanding the environment and the studies starting from that point and radiating out of it. Following the leads that individual studies will give us. We could, of course, all of us and others go out and start testing and looking everywhere for the virus in nature, in the environment, in old samples, et cetera. That will be a total waste of resources. These are expensive studies and they need to be targeted and led by previous studies, led by science, led by logic. Otherwise we will never have a chance to get there.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (49:09)
So that’s why we also, because of that, keep constantly an open-minded said until we have a firm lead that lead us in one direction, we are not closing the other doors. We keep them open to enable us to not miss even a weak indication, a weak lead to an interesting path. So, it’s a very slow process and it’s very complex and therefore it really demands that we don’t jump too early to conclusions and that we pace ourselves, keep an open mind and really look at what science and data tells us. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (49:51)
Thank you very much. Let’s go now to NHK Japanese media and We have our friends Shakur. Shakur, please unmute yourself. And before I give you the floor, I’m just hearing from colleagues that annexes are being formatted and will be uploaded soon by our web team. Shakur?
Hi, can you hear me?
Derek Yashargovich : (50:17)
Oh, okay. Thank you for taking my question. So Peter, you just mentioned there is still a lot of work to do. But it’s the team planning to go back to Wuhan or some other places in China sometime near future for further studies? Thank you.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (50:35)
That will depend how we organize the phase two studies, how we plan them. And some of them can be done quickly and with little resources and manpower. Others will demand more time to be well-planned, well resourced, and therefore it’s difficult to tell you even when we will go where next. But I think there is a consensus that these new studies need to be undertaken preferably as soon as possible, but in a proper way, again, well-planned and well organized. And I believe speaking on behalf of the entire team, that the whole team is still eager to continue working on these studies, but of course, that will depend on where the next and how the next studies are planned. But we hope that these will start very soon and we know that some of them are already ongoing.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (51:36)
So, we’re not just staying and waiting for new studies to be done. Some are already ongoing. Some are continuing from where we left in early February in Wuhan and elsewhere. And we know that other researchers around the world are also contributing by initiating new studies in support of this work. So, it’s a very large body of work that is in the pipeline, and it’s a very dynamic environment. And we, as I think Peter and others said earlier, we expect to see a lot more new, useful and exciting information coming up of these many studies. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (52:17)
Professor Kupmans, would you like to add something?
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (52:21)
Yes, maybe good to understand that, so there is ongoing work, like the work that has been evolving. But some of our recommendations really require the development of the full protocol, get funding, get assays set up. So it’s also important to realize that that will take time and that this team is dedicated on helping to get those studies established, but it will require some time to get there.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (52:51)
Thank you. We have professor Dominic Dwyer who would like to add something.
Prof Dominic Dwyer: (52:57)
Oh, look, I just wanted to make the point in all of these questions about the data and what was available and what we reviewed and so on. And also in the context of future studies, I think it’s worth remembering that this outbreak was an extremely difficult thing for the people and the medical system and the community to handle in Wuhan at that very early stage of the pandemic. I think we’ve got to remember how hard it was for them and how they’re operating in a system without any information. We can argue the toss about data and what it showed and what it meant. But at the end of the day, there are people at the end of all of this data, and I think we need to bear that in mind. And I think that certainly us, as an international team, very much respected the difficulties that people had during this time. So, I think that’s an important point to remember in all of these questions. So thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (54:00)
Good. Dominic, the important point. We will go to next question USA today, and we have Karen Bancherub with us. Karen, sorry if I’m mispronouncing your name
Karen Bankcherub: (54:17)
Close enough. Thanks so much. I was hoping you could go into a little more detail about the theory that this was a leak from a lab. Some have said that you didn’t have a mandate or access to the granular lab records, data, personnel, to the extent that would allow you to confidently evaluate the hypothesis. Do you feel like you have adequately evaluated these? Do you feel that other people need to be involved and much other data needs to be considered for this.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (54:47)
Thank you, Karen, for the question. Yes, as you said, that has been a theory and the speculation floating there for a long time. And frankly speaking, that was probably the first reaction of everybody at that time. Early January has the lab role in this. Everybody who knew that there was a lab in Wuhan, or several labs, by the way. Even the staff in these labs told us that was their first reaction when they heard about these new emerging disease. “Oh, a new coronavirus, it is something coming out of our labs or work.” They all went back to their records and work to try to find out if there was a link, but nobody could find any trace of something similar to this virus in their records or their samples. So it has, of course been a logical natural speculation by everybody at that time.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (55:47)
But apart from that idea that there is a lab nearby or several labs nearby in the same city, so there must be a link. Apart from that, nobody has been able to pick up any firm arguments or proof or evidence that these labs or any of these labs would have been involved in a lab leak accident. Lab accidents of course, too happens once in a while. We’ve seen that throughout history in many places. So of course, it’s possible and therefore, it’s also part of the conclusions in the report that it’s not impossible that could have happened. But we haven’t seen or been able to hear or see or look at anything that would warrant a different conclusions from our side. But as you said, we haven’t done a full investigation or audit of these labs or any of the labs around the world for that matter.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (57:00)
And therefore, it’s not something that we can conclude more than what we have concluded on. We have concluded our conclusions and recommendations based on what we’ve told, based on hours of discussions with colleagues, with staff from these labs, with the management of these labs. And again, we haven’t seen any, or been receiving any documentation that would lead us to believe that there was something we should explore further. And therefore that was not the focus of our work because we had so many other studies, so many other concrete and interesting leads to look at that of course, naturally, that’s where we put our attention, our efforts and our future work.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (57:54)
If we had seen nothing elsewhere, if all the studies around would have led to nowhere, yeah, maybe we would have then look at the alternative options, including other scenarios in more details. But we have strong leads, we have strong indication that we should explore further, and therefore, it’s a natural way to go. And of course, if this, again, leads to nowhere, then we can reassess our evaluation. We can reassess our hypothesis. And as I said earlier, this is a dynamic process, nothing casting stones. There are no firm conclusions. And I think that’s how we should look at the whole outcome of this report and this work.
Derek Yashargovich : (58:41)
Thank you very much, Dr. Ben Embarek. Now, next question is for our dear friend, John Zarokostas from Lancet, also works for France 24. John?
John Zarokostas: (58:54)
Yes. Good afternoon. I would just like to follow up a bit on Dr. Angu Yan’s comments earlier and also in the lab. How did you decide on the rankings? 17 scientists from both sides. Are your individuals estimates published somewhere. And secondly, with reference to the laboratory, understand one BSL4 laboratory is quite recent, not even three years experience in operating it. One of your participants, Dr. Dwyer has experience in your BSL4 facility. Was he satisfied with the answers you got from the experts of the BSL4 facility? Thank you.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (59:38)
Thank you. I will take the first part and then let the domain of cancer the second part. We reach our conclusions by consensus and by discussing among ourselves in the whole team of both Chinese scientists and international experts. So, of course there was discussion forth and back, like always in this type of discussion. And that’s why we brought this large group of individual experts with different background experiences and so on. To hear all these different views, it was extremely important from the onset that we had very diverse views, diverse experiences of different kinds to make sure that we would not miss any angle, that we would not miss any diverging opinion or evaluations. And because of the diversity and complexity of the data and situation we will look at during our studies, it was important that we had that diversity on both sides.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:00:40)
On both sides, we had very diverse groups. And we’d reach our conclusions just by consensus at the end, by arguing, by convincing each other and where some of us were not convinced, they would express that, they would try to counter argue against that. And again, the final outcome was a series of individual consensus on all the issues we discussed and put in our report. As always in this type of work, when you bring a group of scientists with different background and at the end, what you want is a consensus opinion.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:01:15)
Of course, if at the end of the day, we could not have reached consensus on some of the assessments and some of the conclusions, we would have ended up putting these different views on the table and in the report. But we were able, by using good arguments, but putting science on the table, by looking at the data in an unbiased way, we were able to reach a consensus on all the issues and I think that’s again, showing the strengths of this report, the strengths of the work that we spent the time that was needed to reach these consensus and to find the right language, the right conclusions and the right recommendations.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:01:59)
It makes it much stronger than if we had had the report with two or three different set of views here and there all over the place. That would not have been very helpful. Thank you.
John Zarokostas: (01:02:10)
Thank you. Maybe we can hear from Dominique. Professor Dwyer?
Prof Dominic Dwyer: (01:02:17)
Yeah. Thank you very much. Look, I think it’s worth pointing out. First of all, that SARS-CoV-2 does not have to be worked out in a pay for biosecurity level and neither do the other coronaviruses, bat coronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2 can be handled in a biosafety level three laboratory. So, that’s important to remember. I think in terms of visiting the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and indeed the other public health laboratories that we visited in Wuhan, we did have the opportunity to discuss a number of issues with the laboratory. For example, what were their bio security protocols in terms of handling material? And also looking after the staff that work in those facilities. There are generally accepted methods of staff health and staff monitoring that are undertaken in P4 laboratories and indeed P3 laboratories as well. So we were happy that they did have processes in place.
Prof Dominic Dwyer: (01:03:27)
We also discussed with them about some of the testing they did on blood that is normally routinely collected from people who work in high level security laboratories. And they had done testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, and found those to be negative, which is some indication. And we also had the opportunity to talk to the scientists in the laboratory about the type of work that we’re doing. And again, as we know from the report, the most closely related bat coronavirus to SARS-CoV-2, the so-called RITG13, in fact, is not being isolated in the laboratory, but is essentially a genetic sequence. So, I think with that information, I think we were satisfied that there was no obvious evidence of a problem, and that people had done the appropriate look back to see how the laboratory had been functioning during that time. True forensic examination of a laboratory, like one might do other types of forensic examinations, is a much more complex process and that’s not what we were there to do. So I think that’s important to remember.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:04:51)
John. Dominic. Now we have a time for two, maximum three questions as we have another event from WHO Facebook Live, so our colleagues from the studio will have to prepare for that. Let’s then go to Anjali from Yahoo Finance. Anjali unmute yourself and please ask only one question.
Thank you, yeah. Thanks Tarik. Okay. So since I only have one question, I’ll just make it this. Speaking of the laboratory examination and everything else that you’ve been able to put into this, what a level of confidence do you have that going back, you’ll be able to sort of look more into the idea of where the origins is? And is there any pressure to find an origin outside of China right now?
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:05:46)
Thank you for the question. We have a fairly high confidence that we can continue many of these studies because we have a consensus on the recommendations, consensus on all these studies that are needed from now on. So that I think, is a good starting point-
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:06:03)
So that I think is a good starting point. And with regards to where the origin might be, and whether there’s pressure from one side or the other side, or from China to look elsewhere, of course, nobody wants to have an origin in your backyard. But we are, again, following the science, we’re following the leads. We are going step by step. And we already know that, and we have recommendation for studies to be conducted outside the borders of China, because it’s relevant looking at that population that are crossing the borders and looking at them across the borders is a logical step. Looking further into the initial reports of positive samples in other places in elsewhere in the world is needed, is warranted, is again continuing exploring the different leads, the different paths, the different information we get from previous studies. So again, open-minded, following the science, logical approach, step by step. That’s the way forward, and we’ll see where that leads us. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:07:13)
Thank you very much. Let’s go to the next question. We have Christiana [inaudible 01:07:20] from a German news agency, DPA. Christiana.
Thank you Tariq for taking my question. Dr. [Van Barrick 01:07:29], you have said in interviews with Science Magazine, that politics was always in the room and that there were dozens of people on the Chinese side that were neither scientists nor in a global public health sphere. Can you tell us what kind of pressure there was, if there was any, from the Chinese side in the direction of the investigations and also in the formulation of this report? Thank you.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:07:59)
Thank you for your question. And yes, I think there was. That’s accepted by everybody. There was a lot of attention, a lot of pressure on all this work. We also had the entire world following every move we made during our stay in Wuhan, during quarantine or after the quarantine, the first quarantine period. And of course, there was a lot of interest from all sides. And I think as you said, of course, it was political pressure from all sides, also outside China. But I think we were able to create a space for the science, a space for the two group of scientists that were together. We had nothing to hide, so there was no problem working in an open environment and sharing our work and our discussions as we had them.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:08:53)
We also attracted a lot of attention during our visits to different sites, of course. Posts from the media, but also from the local populations, from the staff of these places we visited, et cetera. And of course, there was a lot of attention from our host country to follow and making sure that we were able to work and interested, of course, in our discussion, in our work.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:09:20)
We were never pressured to remove a critical element in our report. As I said, the report is something that all the scientists on the joint team can stand behind and have supported. And we have all fought for our ideas and beliefs to be in this report. And I think we have all contributed and can recognize our footprint in this report. So I personally am very proud of this report. And like my other colleagues, we will stand behind it on both sides, despite all the interest and the pressure and the immense difficult environments that we have faced over the past few months. But again, we are also extremely pleased to have seen this interest and this pressure in a way around us. It has made our work more interesting, more challenging, but also more dedicated because we could feel that there was no time to rest. There was no time to even sleep. We were really interested in making every possible effort to get this work done the best way possible. And I think we have achieved that. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:10:38)
Thank you very much, Dr. Van Barrick. And let’s take a question from [inaudible 01:10:43] from [inaudible 01:10:43] Press. [inaudible 01:10:46]?
Speaker 2: (01:10:52)
Yes. Thank you. If I could just ask, what did you think was the most interesting finding from your mission and how confident are you that your work will eventually lead to identifying the source of the pandemic? Thank you.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:11:08)
It will be difficult to pinpoint one particular result. I think there are so many exciting results coming out of this work that it’ll be difficult to pinpoint. I would think that finding the suppliers, the farm supplying what frozen animal products to the market is an exciting lead. Isn’t that exciting finding? And I can’t wait for [inaudible 01:11:37] going back to these farms and their environment and try to move forward and find something there.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:11:42)
I think the genetic work linking the sequences and genetic sequences of all the strains of December 19 and seeing how these are linked and also seeing possible link to two parts outside Wuhan is an exciting finding. I think all the findings on the AP side, around the early cases to see how the different civilian system data can be linked together, the data on excess mortality contributing to understanding how the disease was spreading in December in Wuhan is exciting. All the data from the animal side, new finding of related viruses throughout the region is an exciting new piece. The large number of animal studies that have been conducted is also interesting and exciting, not mentioning all the science data on the virus, it’s persistence in an environment. Really, a lot of very interesting leads and exciting results here. It’s really interesting, in particular, from a scientist point of view to see how much there is to look at and how much we’ve discovered already. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:13:08)
Professor Koopman wanted to add something.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (01:13:11)
Yeah, of course, Peter said it all, but I’m excited by just the sheer size of this endeavor and how important it is to go from broad, so many of the studies now, as that is difficult in an outbreak investigation have been based on convenience sampling, has been casting quite a broad net, but have now provided us with a very deep dive into what happened the early phase of this pandemic. And that really provides a solid basis for more detailed followup questions. On this neurology, where would we want to target this. What are the places where the earliest evidence of circulation from the genomic data, and that can vary… that really will help us target the follow-up study. So that’s what I’m really excited about, going from the wide casted net to, okay, next phase study. So yeah, I think that’s what is really nice about this approach.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:14:28)
Thank you, Professor Koopman. Dr. [Dedrick 01:15:57] wanted also to add something.
Dr. Peter Daszak: (01:14:36)
Yes. From the animal side, first of all, how well our understanding of the events in Wuhan begin to fit together when we look to the molecular data, to the epi data, and the animal data. It all seemed to fit to form a big picture story about what likely happened, and I think that’s quite exciting.
Dr. Peter Daszak: (01:14:58)
And we went there with open minds. We all did. We didn’t know what we were going to find. We didn’t know what data we’re going to be shown. From the animal side, it would have been incredible to have a bat with the exact same lineage of viruses. We didn’t see that yet. That will come in the future I think. What we did see on the animal side is clear evidence that the Chinese scientists showed us, they found this information out from the market, that there was a pathway into that market of animals that we know are coronavirus. Reservoirs are able to carry coronaviruses from places where the nearest related viruses are found. What that does is it shows you right there and then, there is a pathway that this virus could have taken to move 800,000 miles from the rural parts of South China, Southeast Asia, into this market. That was exciting to see that. Thanks.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:15:56)
Dr. Dedrick, let’s go to maybe a last question because we are already well beyond one hour, closer to one hour and a half. I have Sarah Gerving from [inaudible 01:16:09]. Sarah, the floor is yours.
Sarah Gerving: (01:16:13)
Thanks so much. What would you say is the timeframe on how long it might take for more conclusive answers on the origin? Could this be a matter of years or what are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:16:27)
Thank you, Sarah. That’s a very difficult question. It’s always difficult to predict the future. It will take some time and it will also demand and be depending on a good portion of luck as always. But we are still optimistic that we will discover more. We will get closer to the final answer. But when and how long it would take, that’s very difficult to predict. So be patient, and please continue to follow the exciting set of studies that hopefully will come into motion in the coming weeks and months. And again, it’s an exciting adventure. I hope the whole world will continue to follow these studies and this work because it’s a fascinating journey. And it’s a critical one because it’s the only way we can understand what happened. And more importantly, try to prevent something similar for happening again, because if we don’t look into what happened, if you don’t understand what happened, we will risk again. And most certainly we will again face something similar in the future. And that will be, again, a terrible result. Thank you.
Dr. Marion Koopmans: (01:17:50)
Thank you, Dr. Van Barrick. Dr. [inaudible 01:17:54] wanted to add something. Dr. [inaudible 01:17:57]?
Prof Dominic Dwyer: (01:17:58)
Thank you so much, Tariq. I guess one of the exciting point of this report is what is One Health? So [inaudible 01:18:06] any model, human, and environment, I guess that evolves itself. It’s good. I mean, [inaudible 01:18:15] and hopefully we will… I mean, we will have the confidence to have the origin. This is one of the exciting point. I guess, our respective journalist, they need to take a cup of tea and sit and read this comprehensive report. Thank you so much.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:18:42)
Thank you very much. I hope all journalists will do exactly that. Take a drink, whatever it is and read the report. I would maybe now just turn to some final remarks from some of our team members. I will start with [inaudible 01:19:03] who wanted to have some final thoughts.
Speaker 1: (01:19:09)
Yes. Thank you very much, Tariq. I think that I just would like to follow up as a point of [inaudible 01:19:16], who is in my team to say that it’s not about the concept One Health alone as that we have done, but I have to say that I am so happy to be part of this One Health team in terms of composition, because I think the population in China have made up a very nice team. That reflect really is the One Health concept.
Speaker 1: (01:19:38)
I don’t know if you looked at [inaudible 01:19:41] screen, but I can tell that this One Health team composed by really a medical doctor, epidemiologist, a biologist like me. You have veterinarians and you have people working in the lab and to the field, both from international side and the Chinese side. And it was really a good experience for me. And I think that now the complex issue of the pandemic of COVID-19 really needs this One Health and One Health team. Yeah. Not only us, but as the One Health team as they work to go together. And that would be the way forward, that we stop sometime with the phase two. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:20:20)
Thank you very much. I see that Dr. Fabian [inaudible 01:20:30] would like to say something as well. Fabian, please.
Dr. Fabian: (01:20:35)
Yes. Thank you very much. I very much agree to the previous said. Perhaps for those people who are a bit impatient and wonder why does this all take so long to find out the origin of that disastrous disease, please read the literature. There’s some excellent books on the origin of other zoonotic diseases. It always took many months or years. In some case, 500 years, like when you look at the origin of measles, to find out what really happened. So we understand the curiosity and many scientists around the world, including this team, are trying to do what we can to find out what happened. Thanks. That’s all.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:21:18)
Thank you. Thank you very much, Fabian. Now, Professor John Watson would like also to add something. Professor Watson.
Professor John Watson: (01:21:29)
Thank you very much. Only a couple of words, because really all that needs to be said has been said. I really just wanted to emphasize that this is the process [inaudible 01:21:39] time. We’ve come a long way. We’ve come a long way as a result of collaboration. And in order to be able to take this further and get closer to that answer, we need to be able to continue that collaboration, that dialogue with our colleagues in China. And so, we will certainly be pushing to be able to do that. So thanks very much.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:22:00)
Thank you very much. Professor Watson. Dr. Peter Dedrick, you would like to add something as well at the end.
Dr. Peter Daszak: (01:22:08)
Just a single point. I think what we’ve seen in this report, half of this team is missing and it’s the China co-chairs of the animal epi and molecular group. It’s the China scientists who did a lot of the work that we sat down and went through. And I think this report is a testament to how even under very intense scrutiny and very difficult political circumstances, countries can come together to focus on the origins of emerging diseases. And viruses don’t think about national boundaries. And if we really want to defeat pandemics, we have to do this work. We have to come together with other countries to focus on how they emerge and try and stop them for the future. So I hope that spirit of goodwill continues and I really look forward to that, allowing the world to really better protect ourselves in every country against pandemics. Thanks very much.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:23:07)
Thank you very much, Dr. Dedrick. And Dr. Peter Van Barrick, maybe you would like to say a few final remarks?
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:23:18)
Thank you, Tariq. And thank you colleagues for all your good words. And I will echo everything you have said. This has been an incredible collaborative work and we should really thank all that have been involved in this, making this possible. And we’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of individuals throughout the world who made this possible. In particular, I would like at the end to extend our collective sincere thanks to the population of Wuhan, which we disturbed again and where we put back in their memory the difficult days of last year, by putting Wuhan again, last month, into the headlines. They have accepted us. They have facilitated our stay and they have beared with us while we were disturbing their daily life with our visits and our work. So a sincere thank for them. And in particular, after having gone through that traumatic experience in 2020 last year.
Dr. Ben Embarek: (01:24:29)
And I would like to also thank our entire team, both the Chinese side and the international team for their dedication, their hard work. We have really spent months together almost day and night, and that has been incredible experience. And lastly, I want to extend our sincere thanks also for the media who followed us throughout our stay in Wuhan. In January, the weather unfortunately was not the best in Wuhan. It was wet, cold, misty, and still many of you stand up every morning for the whole day waiting for us and try to communicate with us and follow our work for months. And that shows the incredible dedication and interest from your side as well. And again, thank you for that. Thank you.
Derek Yashargovich : (01:25:22)
Thank you very much, Dr. Van Barrick. Thanks to all the team members who were with us today, presenting their findings. Thanks also to all journalists who were with us today. You have seen, we had more than 300 people online. I apologize to all those whose questions were not taken, but don’t hesitate to contact us at WHO or any of the team members directly. I’m sure they will have a little bit more time now to answer your questions. Before closing, just to remind you that we will send audio file very soon. We will also have a transcript. That transcript will be available not before tomorrow morning. And we may try also to send material that Dr. Van Barrick was using in his opening remarks with this. I wish everyone a very nice rest of the day or evening. Goodbye.