China refused to provide WHO team with raw data on early COVID cases

China refused to provide WHO team with raw data on early COVID cases
  • Clock-gray 16:57
  • calendar-gray 13 February 2021

China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to a World Health Organization-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, one of the team’s investigators said, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began, APA reports citing Reuters.

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 the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but were only provided with a summary, said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious diseases expert who is a member of the team.

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, 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. 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.”

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.”

“That’s why we’ve persisted to ask for that,” he said. “Why that doesn’t happen, I couldn’t comment. 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.”

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.”

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