Given How Covid Started, China Must Promptly Probe ‘Mystery Illness': India's Covid Panel Chief – News18

Reported By: Himani Chandna
Edited By: Nitya Thirumalai
Last Updated: November 25, 2023, 10:39 IST
New Delhi, India
A woman carries a child as they leave a children's hospital in Beijing, on November 24, 2023. (AP)
Given the crucial lessons from the Covid-19 outbreak, it is essential for China to investigate the causes of any unexplained illness promptly and come clean, Dr NK Arora, the head of the Centre’s Covid panel told News18.
According to Dr Arora, head of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) — an apex panel that takes critical decisions on using and deploying Covid-19 vaccines in India – if independent verification proves challenging for China, the country should immediately seek international collaborations.
China has been experiencing a strain on hospitals recently because of a sharp increase in cases of unexplained pneumonia-like illness. Earlier this week, ProMED, an online medical community, noted a number of media reports of clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia among children in northern China. It was ProMED that had raised questions in late 2019 about an unknown illness circulating in Wuhan, which later became Covid-19.
The world is closely watching the evolving situation in China, which is unfolding eerily similar to how the Covid-19 pandemic had first started with unexplained pneumonia-like illness.
Dr Arora told News18 that the world expects the World Health Organisation to pursue the situation “strongly and go forward to catalyse international collaborations to promptly identify the cause of the outbreak”.
Arora said the UN health agency must insist on greater transparency, especially with respect to two aspects – handling of the outbreak and sharing the results emerging from the investigations.
In this post-Covid world, Arora said, everyone has understood that national boundaries are meaningless. “Hence, urgent action can save lives if a pathogen has pandemic potential.”
“The world must not let any delay happen here and promptly investigate all three aspects – clinical, epidemiological, and microbiological, including strong genomic surveillance.”
Even if the evolving situation in China fizzles out soon, India and other countries should never disband their genomic surveillance networks which have been established as learning from Covid-19, he said.
“The world must continue enhancing genomic analytical capabilities and strengthen the mechanism put during the outbreak for catching future outbreaks on time.”


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