China refused to give raw data on the first cases of Covid-19 to the team led by the World Health Organization ( WHO ) investigating the origins of the pandemic , said one of the team’s researchers, which it could complicate efforts to understand how the outbreak started.
The team had requested the raw data of the 174 Covid-19 cases that China had identified from the initial phase of the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but were only provided a summary, said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious disease expert who is a member of the team.
Raw data of this type are known as “line lists,” he said, and would normally be anonymous, but contain details such as what questions patients were asked, their responses, and how their responses were analyzed.
“It is standard practice in investigating an outbreak,” he told Reuters on Saturday via video call from Sydney, where he is currently in quarantine.
Dwyer said that gaining access to the raw data was especially important, as only half of the 174 cases had an exposure to the Huanan market , Wuhan’s seafood wholesale hub , now closed and where it was initially detected. the virus .
“That is why we have insisted on asking for it,” he said. “Why doesn’t that happen? I couldn’t comment on it. Whether for political reasons, time or difficulty (…) But if there are other reasons why the data is not available, I don’t know. One could only speculate. ”
While the Chinese authorities provided much material, the expert said the issue of access to raw patient data would be mentioned in the team’s final report. “The people at WHO certainly felt that they had received much more data than they had received in the previous year. So that in itself is progress. ”
A summary of the team’s findings could be published as early as next week, the WHO said on Friday.
The WHO- led investigation has been plagued by delays, access concerns and disputes between Beijing and Washington, which accused China of concealing the scope of the initial outbreak and criticized the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of the investigation.
The WHO did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters . The Chinese Foreign Ministry also did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Beijing has previously defended its transparency in handling the outbreak and its cooperation.