World Health Organization report on COVID-19 origin inconclusive, calls for further studies

World Health Organization report on COVID-19 origin inconclusive, calls for further studies”

The report was written by a joint worldwide team made up of 17 Chinese experts plus 17 experts from other countries, WHO, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

"I'd also would like to inquire as to the extent in which the people who were on that group had access directly to the data that they would need to make a determination", he said.

The report is expected to be released on Tuesday.

After the outbreak, explanations floated by Chinese officials and state-media have ranged from a conspiracy theory that U.S. soldiers imported the virus in the 2019 World Military Games in Wuhan, to the frozen food theory after a series of outbreaks linked to workers who handled frozen goods.

"It is clear that that the Chinese government has not provided all the data needed and, until they do, firmer conclusions will be hard", he said in a statement.

But the investigation has not found what other animal was infected by a bat - considered the most likely original source of the virus - and then may have transmitted it to a human.

As countries rush to vaccinate and stem the spread of Covid-19, the mystery at the very heart of the pandemic - how the virus that causes the disease first jumped to humans - remains unsolved.

Repeated delays in the report's release raised questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to influence the findings.

At a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing later Friday, the government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Redfield "was just expressing an opinion".

"We will read the report and discuss, digest its content and next steps with member states", Tedros said.

And predictably, the report has prompted heavy criticism from the United States, with questions once again raised over the access granted to Western experts while in China.

But while it said there was some evidence that people could be infected through handling contaminated frozen products, it was very unlikely that was how the virus was first introduced. A foreign ministry spokesperson said: "The U.S. has been speaking out on the report".

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One theory examined was that the virus jumped directly from bats to humans. She also acknowledged that it's possible milder of cases of the virus may have been circulating before the outbreak in Wuhan was declared in December 2019.

The findings are the result of a joint study by Chinese scientists and a WHO-led team that was in China last month to investigate the virus's origin.

They evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely, and said that spread to humans from the packaging of "cold-chain" food products was possible but not likely. "And we're bolstering our defenses, but this war's far from won".

At the same time, "there is this dynamic where the harder political leaders in some countries try to blame China for Covid-19, the harder that Beijing tries to put up counter-narratives", Ni said.

"Many critics of the World Health Organization reflect a misunderstanding of its role and a chronic tendency of member states and pundits to blame World Health Organization for not doing what member states haven't empowered it to do", he said.

Bats are known to carry coronaviruses and, in fact, the closest relative of the virus that causes Covid-19 has been found in bats.

For example, the study says highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, another kind of mammal found in Africa and Asia.

The diplomat did not want to be identified because they were not authorised to release it ahead of publication.

The nationalist Global Times published a report in December that asked in its headline, "Could cold chain imports have sparked Wuhan early Covid-19 outbreak?"

"There is no record of viruses closely related to Sars-CoV-2 in any laboratory before December 2019, or genomes that in combination could provide a Sars-CoV-2 genome... and therefore the risk of accidental culturing Sars-CoV-2 in the laboratory is extremely low", the report says.

Research published a year ago in the journal Lancet suggested the market may have merely served to further spread the disease rather than being its source.

Chinese researchers have said outbreaks among Beijing market workers and dock workers in eastern China's Qingdao were linked to virus particles on frozen fish.

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