Beijing March 31 — China did share data with WHO experts in the joint study on the source of COVID-19, and the report released on Tuesday is based on facts, said Liang Wannian, the Chinese leader of the China-WHO joint expert team, at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
Liang stressed that the workload of the joint study, saying “the team were busy analyzing massive amount of data and refining the report everyday before the release.”
“We are confident the report can stand the test of time,” Liang added.
During the press briefing, Liang confirmed that the report mentions bats, pangolins, minks and cats as potential animals that may have introduced the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans. The earliest patient found in the research was diagnosed on December 8, 2019.
About the “China not sharing raw data” accusations, Liang told reporters that the premise and the logic behind the claim are flawed.
“In our research, all databases and files were shared between all Chinese and foreign experts. Everyone can see everything,” Liang explained. “But taking pictures of some papers or bringing them away can be illegal in China.”
“Sometimes the data could relate to patients’ privacy and require their consent to be shared. I think this is a globally-accepted concept,” he added.
He also questioned the accusations from the perspective of definition. “I want to know what did they mean by ‘raw data’,” he said.
“There are many types of data,” he went on explaining. “We used sorted data and sorting those records was hard work.”
Liang told the media that checking data record by record was neither practical nor necessary for the joint team.
On the delay of the release date, Liang explained that the experts had to work on the report in both English and Chinese language and it took much efforts to make sure nothing was lost in translation, and “all members of the team believe that quality is more important than catching up with a date.”
Liang stressed that there’s no interference or laziness behind the delayed release date. China supports the WHO conducting more researches on the same topic, Liang said.
On next steps of the joint research, deputy head of China’s Center of Disease Control and Prevention Feng Zijian said that more studies should be conducted in other countries to form a global cooperation.
Origins tracing of the virus should not be confined to Wuhan or even China, said Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“In terms of traceability, I think we should be more open. We can’t restrict our search to Wuhan or China. We should include the whole world, even the Antarctic and the Arctic. Origin tracing is now an open scientific question, and we can’t limit our attention to one particular place,” Gao said.
“It seems that we need to open our minds to think about the origin of the virus. It’s possible that even after all this effort, we may not find the source of this virus, but suddenly there will be another coronavirus that is very similar to it. This is a very real possibility.”
Echoing similar views, professor Yang Yungui, the Chinese head of the joint team’s molecular tracing group, said, “The joint expert group has reached the consensus that further follow-up studies should be conducted on the analysis of suspected cases of the new coronavirus in patient and environmental samples from around the world reported before the end of January 2020.”
“We recognize that it is necessary to understand the origins of the virus, which is key to better avoiding similar epidemics in the future,” Yang added.
He also mentioned that it’s not surprising that the study didn’t conclude a clear scientific result as it’s a complex and long-term effort that needs to be further explored.