Saturday, 31 July, 2021


COVID-19 origin probe found lab leak 'extremely unlikely,' report says

Statues along a street are seen with masks placed on them as a WHO mission visits Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Statues along a street are seen with masks placed on them as a WHO mission visits Wuhan in central China's Hubei province
Melba Vasquez | 30 March, 2021, 09:56

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 Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

This is expected to be identified as the most likely scenario while completely ruling out that the virus was released in or from a laboratory environment, stating that the possibility of deliberate release from a laboratory is "extremely unlikely".

"No firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn", the report says, dismissing the cover-up claims that have been ciculating now for well over 12 months.

It also pointed out that "antibodies to bat coronavirus proteins have been found in humans with close contact to bats".

China rejected that criticism Monday.

Already during the Wuhan press conference, the experts had said the lab-leak theory was considered the least likely.

While it's possible an infected animal contaminated packaging that was then brought to Wuhan and infected humans, the report said the probability is very low.

Researchers recommend that every theory, with the exception of the lab leak, be further studied.

"The US has been speaking out on the report".

Director-general of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that "WHO has received the full mission report over the weekend on the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the team that visited Wuhan earlier this year".

The report was written by a group of scientists from World Health Organization following a 27-day trip earlier this year to Wuhan, China, where the first cases of the virus were reported.

The U.S. has "real concerns about the methodology and the process" of the report, including that the Chinese government "apparently helped to write it", Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on CNN.

A handful of academic papers have been published, and several withdrawn, arguing SARS-CoV-2 appeared instantly adapted to infecting humans and suggested it may have been engineered in a laboratory studying SARS-CoV-1, responsible for the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, or the HIV virus.

As Britons dipped back into a pre-pandemic life, several experts turned their attention to the origins report.

The researchers listed four scenarios in order of likelihood for the emergence of the virus named SARS-CoV-2. A second diplomat confirmed getting the report too.

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. They evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely, and said that spread through "cold-chain" food products was possible but not likely.

It said highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, but also noted that mink and cats are susceptible to the COVID virus, which suggests they could be carriers.

The Telegraph reports that the WHO's assessment goes on to say it is "extremely unlikely" that the virus originated from an accident with an infected laboratory staff member.

"All hypotheses are on the table and warrant complete and further studies", World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a news conference on a separate topic.

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.

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.

The findings align with what researchers said last month at the end of their mission to Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the first COVID-19 cases emerged at the end of 2019, and in their subsequent public comments.

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