It is doubtful that the coronavirus has leaked out of the Chinese lab and is likely to have jumped up from an animal to humans, a specialist from the World Health Organisation said Tuesday when the group visited the source of the virus.
Virus samples have been collected by the Wuhan Institutes of Virology in Central China which have led to the argument that the original outbreak has been triggered by the virus leaching to a neighbouring city. China firmly disagreed and supported other hypotheses for the origins of the virus.
The team of the WHO, which visited Wuhan in December 2019 and found the first COVID-19 cases, examines various theories about how the disease first came to humanity, leading to a pandemic that has now killed 2.3 million human beings worldwide.
“Our initial findings suggested that the introduced food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek was the most likely way and that more studies and specific research would be required,” he said on the occasion of a news conference on Tuesday.
“However, the findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population” and will not be suggested as an avenue of future study, Embarek.
The WHO team – consisting of specialists from ten countries – came from Singapore to Wuhan on 14 January and spent the first 2 weeks working from a hotel in quarantine via video conference. The visit to Beijing is politically sensitive. An AP study found that the Chinese government limits outbreak research and prevents scientists from talking to journalists.
The mission of the WHO team should be an initial study of the origins of the virus that was supposed to be caused by bats and then passed on to humans by other wild animals, such as a pangolin or bamboo rats, which some in China viewed as an exotic delicacy.
It was also possible to transfer frozen products through trade, Embarek said.
Another WHO team Member said late last week to The Associated Press that it had a greater degree of openness than anticipated and that all of the websites and staff they requested had full access.
The British zoologist-born Peter Daszak, the expert, said the team looked at issues such as what were the first cases, the connection with animals and what could the role imports of frozen food, which China has long proposed, have played.
The WHO team had a visit for months after China only agreed to this at the World Health Assembly last May, under massive international pressure and Peking has continued to resist demands that an investigation is strictly independent.
While China has experienced localised infection resurgences since last year’s outbreak, life in Wuhan itself has largely become normal.