Science

World Health Organization chief says all Covid origins hypotheses 'need further study'

World Health Organization chief says all Covid origins hypotheses 'need further study'”

The findings were largely as expected and left many questions unanswered, with the team proposing further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.

Another theory examined in the report, which researchers dismissed as "extremely unlikely", was that the virus could have been leaked from a Chinese laboratory - a widely-disputed claim, which was promoted by former President Donald Trump without evidence.

The report's release has been repeatedly delayed, raising questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew the conclusions to prevent blame for the pandemic falling on China.

The report, drafted by a team of global experts appointed by the World Health Organisation and their Chinese counterparts, comes as dramatic infection spikes in Europe have forced a tightening of unpopular restrictions across the continent.

China, of course, has been criticized for their lack of transparency throughout the global pandemic, and the World Health Organization has been criticized as well for echoing disinformation from the Chinese government. A foreign ministry spokesperson said: "The U.S. has been speaking out on the report".

"Isn't the U.S. trying to exert political pressure on the members of the World Health Organization expert group?"

The agency said the report deemed it was "likely to very likely" the virus began infecting humans through an intermediary species and "possible to likely" the virus jumped directly from bats to humans.

The closest relative of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in bats, which are known to carry coronaviruses. However, the report says that "the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and (COVID-19) is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link".

The Telegraph reports that they obtained a copy of the documents compiled by the WHO's scientific team and sent out to all member nations. It wasn't clear whether the report might still be changed prior to its release, the AP said. A second diplomat confirmed getting the report too. Both refused to be identified because they were not authorized to release it ahead of publication.

Tedros said the worldwide experts would hold a press conference on Tuesday to discuss their findings.

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"We've got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it", U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent CNN interview.

The discovery of other cases before the Huanan market outbreak suggests it may have started elsewhere.

"Many of the early cases were associated with the Huanan market, but a similar number of cases were associated with other markets and some were not associated with any markets", the report added.

They also said it remained unclear what role the Wuhan market had played in sparking or amplifying the initial outbreak, and presented no clear answer on how the virus first jumped to humans. The report noted that animal products - including everything from bamboo rats to deer, often frozen - were sold at the market, as were live crocodiles.

The report did not rule out the hypothesis, privileged by Beijing, of transmission through frozen food, since the virus appears capable of surviving at freezing temperatures and "introduction via cold/food chain products is considered possible".

The report said that the cold chain, as it is known, can be a driver of long-distance virus spread but was skeptical it could have triggered the outbreak.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, said he would like to see the report's raw information first before deciding about its credibility.

The US expects the WHO-led investigation to require further study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, perhaps including a return visit to China, a senior US official told reporters last week.

Finally, the report examined the idea of a lab leak from, for instance, the Wuhan Institute of Virology - a theory promoted by former United States president Donald Trump's administration.

Three laboratories in Wuhan working with coronaviruses had "well-managed", high-quality biosafety levels, and there had been no reports of compatible respiratory illness among staff during the preceding months, the report said.



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