WHO Report to Say That Coronavirus Likely Came From Animals

Director General of the World Health Organization

The WHO team's leader, Peter Ben Embarek, told a press briefing it was "perfectly possible" the virus had been circulating in November or October 2019 around Wuhan, and so potentially spreading overseas earlier than documented so far.

"The worldwide expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples", Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Korea, Slovenia, Britain, the United States and the European Union said in a joint statement.

"However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough". WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyses said that global experts will hold press conferences to explain what came out in their investigation.

However, the research center didn't report any disruptions or incidents that would have been caused by the move, and it wasn't storing or testing coronaviruses or bat viruses ahead of the outbreak, the report said.

The report makes several suggestions for future investigations, including further tracing of the wildlife farms in China that supplied the Huanan market and of possible virus sources in South East Asia and other regions.

Koopmans' unsafe animal lab experiments and the substantial funding she has received from China for her research suggest she has a stake in pleasing the Chinese government by denying the lab leak theory.

Although the team concluded a leak from a Wuhan-area laboratory was the least likely hypothesis for the virus that causes COVID-19, Tedros said, the matter requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions back to China.

But the search for the origin of the virus is ongoing.

The two likeliest supported the consensus around the theory that the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolved in bats and began infecting humans either directly or through an intermediary species.

World Health Organization report says animals likely source of COVID-19, AP reports
Already during the Wuhan press conference, the experts had said the lab-leak theory was considered the least likely. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed that he had received the report.

"There is no conclusive evidence for foodborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the probability of a cold-chain contamination with the virus from a reservoir is very low", it says.

The report's most definitive conclusion is also its most controversial: that it is "extremely unlikely" SARS-CoV-2 leaked out of a Chinese laboratory that was already studying coronaviruses, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). "No single research trip can provide all the answers". Their research relied on samples and evidence provided by Chinese officials.

Rasmussen agrees. "A team of scientists is not qualified to conduct a detailed audit of WIV's records, or get access to institutional files, lab notebooks, databases, or freezer inventories", she says.

He also noted some of the limitations of the report and said investigators did not have access to mild cases at the beginning of the pandemic.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently told CNN they have "real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into the report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it". "By doing this, isn't the U.S. trying to exert political pressure on the members of the World Health Organization expert group?" asked Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

Critics pointed to the team's heavy reliance on Chinese data for its initial conclusions, while others say the great bulk of that data suggests the virus emerged in the country anyway.

It's possible the market was not the original source of the outbreak, but that the crowds that gathered at the market - which was densely packed, with a roof and open sewers - may have amplified the spread of the virus. A detailed report will also be released on Tuesday.

"Although the closest related viruses have been found in bats, the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link", the report said.

The market was an early suspect because some stalls sold a range of unusual animals, and some wondered if they had brought the new virus to Wuhan.

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