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WHO says Covid ‘most likely’ originated in animals and spread to humans, dismisses lab leak theory

An global team of scientists led by the World Health Organization said Tuesday that the coronavirus “most likely” originated in creatures before spreading to humans and dismissed a theory that the disease had been leaked by a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Scientists arrange been working in Wuhan, where the disease was identified, for the past four weeks as part of their search for traces to the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. The long-awaited probe comes after months of negotiations between China and WHO about the organizations of the investigation. The delay raises questions about the reliability of the findings.

The investigators have visited hospitals, laboratories and customer bases, including the Huanan Seafood Market, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control laboratory.

The inflict, which has been shrouded in secrecy, was also expected to see researchers speak with early responders as well as some of the fundamental patients. The team completed two weeks of quarantine before beginning to visit local sites.

Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s commons safety and animal disease specialist and chairman of the investigation team, told reporters the “most likely” pathway for Covid was a crossover into humans from an go-between species. This hypothesis will “require more studies and more specific (and) targeted research,” he said.

The introductory findings of the investigation did not find evidence of large Covid outbreaks in Wuhan or elsewhere before December 2019. However, researchers did assign evidence of wider Covid circulation outside the Huanan Seafood Market that month, Ben Embarek said.

He enlarged it was not yet possible to pinpoint the animal intermediary host for the coronavirus, describing the findings after nearly a month of meetings and install visits as “work in progress.”

“In terms of understanding what happened in the early days of December 2019, did we change dramatically the essence we had beforehand? I don’t think so,” Ben Embarek said.

“Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that story? Absolutely,” he said.

The WHO has sought to look after expectations of a definitive conclusion to the origins of the Covid pandemic. To put the mission in a broader context, it took more than a decade to regard the origins of SARS, while the origins of Ebola — first identified in the 1970s — is still not yet known.

It is hoped that report of the earliest known cases of the coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan in late 2019, could help to identify how the outbreak started and hinder future pandemics.

Lab leak ‘extremely unlikely’

A theory that the coronavirus was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doubted by the WHO investigators. The hypothesis had been perpetuated by former President Donald Trump’s administration, without the weight of evidence, and strenuously denied by Chinese propers.

“The laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population,” Ben Embarek implied. “Therefore, [it] is not in the hypotheses that we will suggest for future studies.”

The team had reached the conclusion that a lab leak should be deemed as extremely unlikely “on the basis of a serious discussion and very diligent research,” added Liang Wannian, head of the pundit Covid panel at China’s National Health Commission.

Minks are seen at a farm in Gjol, northern Denmark on October 9, 2020.

HENNING BAGGER | Ritzau Scanpix | AFP via Getty Similes

Speaking alongside Ben Embarek from the Hilton Optics Valley Hotel in Wuhan, Liang said ongoing investigate into the origins of the virus must focus on how it circulated in animals before infecting humans.

Bats and pangolins are implied candidates for transmission, Liang said, but samples from these species were not found to be “sufficiently similar” to the coronavirus.

The excessive susceptibility of minks and cats to the virus indicates there may be other animals that serve as reservoirs, Liang continued, but investigation remains inconclusive.

China’s National Health Commission spokesperson said there could have been an unreported circuit of the coronavirus before it was detected in Wuhan. However, Liang said there was no evidence of substantial Covid circulation in Wuhan in the vanguard the late 2019 outbreak.

International concern

Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan as members of the Existence Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus make a visit to the institute in Wuhan in China’s median Hubei province on February 3, 2021.


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