[/news/china/index.html China] refused to give raw data on early [/news/coronavirus/index.html COVID-19] cases to a World Health Organization-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, one of the team's investigators said.
The lack of data potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began over a year ago, after it was first detected in China's Wuhan.
The team had requested raw patient data on the 174 cases of COVID-19 that China had identified from the early phase of the outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases.
However, they were only provided with a summary, said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious diseases expert who is a member of the team.
Pictured: Dominic Dwyer, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), responds to journalists' questions, from a balcony at a hotel in Wuhan, China on January 29, 2021
Such raw data is known as 'line listings', he said, and would typically be anonymised but contain details such as what questions were asked of individual patients, their responses and how their responses were analysed.
'That's standard practice for an outbreak investigation,' he told Reuters on Saturday via video call from Sydney, Lạc Sơn Đại Phật where he is currently undergoing quarantine.
He said that 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.
'That's why we've persisted to ask for that,' he said.
'Why that doesn't happen, I couldn't comment,' he said.
'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.'
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While the Chinese authorities provided a lot of material, he said the issue of access to the raw patient data would be mentioned in the team's final report.
'The WHO people 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.'
A summary of the team's findings could be released as early as next week, the WHO said on Friday.
The WHO-led 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 and spent four weeks looking into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, was limited to visits organised by their Chinese hosts and prevented from contact with community members, due to health restrictions.
The first two weeks were spent in hotel quarantine.
The head of WHO on Friday insisted that the theory Covid-19 emerged in a laboratory in Wuhan has not been dismissed following a controversial fact-finding mission to China.
Pictured: WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
There have been fears the mission would become part of Chinese white-washing exercise with potentially embarrassing or incriminating evidence hidden from researchers.
Pictured: President Xi Jinping, addresses a Chinese Lunar New Year reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, February 10
China's refusal to hand over raw data on the early COVID-19 cases was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal on Friday.
The WHO did not reply to a request from Reuters for comment.
The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment but Beijing has previously defended its transparency in handling the outbreak and its cooperation with the WHO mission.
Dwyer said the work within the WHO team was harmonious but that there were 'arguments' at times with their Chinese counterparts over the interpretation and significance of the data, which he described as 'natural' in such probes.
'We might be having a talk about cold chain and they might be more firm about what the data shows than what we might have been, but that's natural.
'Whether there's political pressure to have different opinions, I don't know.
There may well be, but it's hard to know.'
Cold chain refers to the transport and kynghidongduong.vn trade of frozen food.
Beijing has sought to cast doubt on the notion that the coronavirus originated in China, pointing to imported frozen food as a conduit.
Pictured: People watch a traditional dragon dance performance during the second day of Spring Festival in Han Kou Li on February 13 in Wuhan - where the virus was first detected
On Tuesday, Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO delegation, told a news conference that transmission of the virus via frozen food is a possibility, but pointed to market vendors selling frozen animal products including farmed wild animals as a potential pathway that warrants further study.
Embarek also said that the team was not looking further into the theory that the virus escaped from a lab, which it considered highly unlikely.
The previous U.S.
administration of President Donald Trump had said it suspected the virus may have escaped from a Wuhan lab, which Beijing strongly denies.
'It was an unanimous feeling,' Dwyer said. 'It wasn't a political sop whatsoever.'
WHO backtracks on Covid Wuhan lab: Theory that virus emerged in laboratory has NOT been dismissed, health chief insists - as it emerges China WON'T hand over raw data on early infections
By Faith Ridler For Mailonline, 12 February 2021
The head of WHO today insisted that the theory [/news/coronavirus/index.html Covid-19] emerged in a laboratory in Wuhan has not been dismissed following a controversial fact-finding mission to [/news/china/index.html China].
The investigation to Wuhan, where the first cases were detected, failed to identify the source of the virus but appeared to disregard the theory that it leaked from a virology laboratory in the city.
However, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today said that following the 'very important scientific exercise ...
all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and studies.'
It comes after Peter Embarek, the leader of the WHO team, this week concluded it was 'extremely unlikely' that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Shi Zhengli works with other researchers in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province in February 2017
Speaking from Geneva today, Dr Tedros said: 'Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded.
'Having spoken with some members of the team, I wish to confirm that all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and studies.
'Some of that work may lie outside the remit and scope of this mission. We have always said that this mission would not find all the answers, but it has added important information that takes us closer to understanding the origins of the virus.
'The mission achieved a better understanding of the early days of the pandemic, Lạc Sơn Đại Phật and identified areas for further analysis and research.
And we will continue working to get the information we need to answer the questions that still need to be answered.'
<div class="art-ins mol-factbox news floatRHS" data-version="2" id="mol-f2b1cf90-6df0-11eb-97ad-b35d67b393bd" website 'refused to provide WHO team with raw data on early COVID cases'