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World Health Organisation’s Chief Scientist answers some of the questions

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hAFUBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALwGsYoAAaRlbhAAAAAASUVORK5CYII= World Health Organisation’s Chief Scientist answers some of the questions

The Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation, Soumya Swaminathan sees a long road ahead as far as the determination of origins of the COVID-19 outbreak is concerned, and it is a long way to go for educating people about public health and to garner some much-needed international support for WHO as well.

It has been two years since the Coronavirus outbreak took over the world and since then it has not looked back, with new variants discovered every day. Governments all over the world are more than ready to put this pandemic behind them but as per the scientists and public health officials of the world, the toughest of the work is still yet to come. 

When asked if the politicisation of science came as a surprise, Soumya said that it was one of the most surprising things she had encountered. She said that it was very disappointing to see scientists and science getting attacked all over the world. The attacks only got stronger as the pandemic progressed over the two years and it holds a lot of potential for damage. She added that all of us have to work together with the younger generations to improve upon some key areas such as scientific literacy, health literacy and to get the young people to think more rationally.

World Health Organisations Chief Scientist answers some of the questions1 World Health Organisation’s Chief Scientist answers some of the questions
World Health Organisation’s Chief Scientist answers some of the questions 6

On the origin of the virus that shook the world in 2020, she threw some light on the matter stating that almost all viral infections that newly emerged have been zoonotic, be it HIV, Zika, Ebola, SARS, and MERS, and the 2 other Coronavirus that have infected the human population. She said that they emerge from an animal and sometimes they spread through an intermediate host. In the case of Coronavirus, the genetic sequences point towards an origin, most probably from bats. Scientists have been unable to detect exactly how, when and where did that jump from animals to humans happened. To prevent future pandemics, she said, it was important to understand all this.

When asked if it was unusual that the initial cause of the Coronavirus outbreak is still unclear, she responded by saying that it was not odd as in the past as well, it had taken several years for people to understand the origin of viruses. For instance, it took years to know that SARS originated from civet cats and that MERS got spread through camels. 

She weighed in on the question of WHO needing more power, she said that it did need a lot more power especially to investigate the outbreaks that could turn into deadly pandemics. All the member states need to come together to form a set of rules that can empower the World Health Organisation to investigate these matters for the collective benefit of humanity. She also said that the theory of Coronavirus leaking from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China has not been ruled out yet. She mentioned that one has to look at the weight of the evidence that is available to the scientists. She added that scientists who visited China did conclude that the possibility of the virus being originated from an animal was more likely. 

When asked if the pandemic was ending anytime soon, the scientists replied that it cannot be predicted by anyone currently and it would be unwise to declare the ending of the pandemic right now. She said that it would be considered foolish if all the precautions were dropped as they need to be continued at least until the end of 2022 to be in a better position as far as the pandemic is concerned. She also stated that a new variant of the virus could arise from anywhere and the world could go back to square one. 

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