Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 7th April 2020.

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Photo of Lord Blencathra Lord Blencathra Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to ascertain the source of COVID-19; what assessment they have made of the response by countries where the virus was initially detected; and what steps they intend to take to hold any government which withheld information about COVID-19 to account.

Photo of Lord Bethell Lord Bethell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. On 12 January 2020 the WHO posted a Disease Outbreak News where it was announced that a novel coronavirus had been identified in samples obtained from cases. Initial analysis of virus genetic sequences suggested that this particular virus was the cause of the outbreak. This virus is referred to as SARS-CoV-2, and the associated disease as COVID-19.

Public Health England has been in regular contact with laboratories and public health organisations within Europe and South East Asia in order to understand the systems they have adopted in relation to contact tracing, risk assessments, guidance and laboratory processes. These knowledge exchanges led to the development of the antigen test used in the United Kingdom and shaped our approach to contact tracing and the risk assessments undertaken of aircraft and cruise ships.

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