Coronavirus: More work needed to rule out lab leak theory says WHO

Brenda Watkins
March 30, 2021

While the report, obtained by Associated Press, concludes it is highly likely the virus was originally transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, there is little advancement from the experts' previous stance in the immediate aftermath of the trip which concluded in February.

"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", US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent CNN interview.

A plainclothes security person uses his umbrella to block journalists after the World Health Organisation team arrive at the Baishazhou wholesale market on the third day of field visit in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on January 31.

Experts have denied that the virus was leaked from the lab in Wuhan. The fight will continue to hold China accountable and for the world to finally know the truth about the origins of the Wuhan virus outbreak, which has claimed the lives of almost 2.8 million people across the globe.

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.

China rejected that criticism on Monday.

Since the virus was first detected in December 2019, there have been more than 127 million cases around the globe and 2.8 million deaths. "By doing this, isn't the US trying to exert political pressure on the members of the World Health Organization expert group?" The report, therefore, does not draw a firm conclusion and calls for additional research on the role of that and other markets. Due to the Chinese government's secrecy, even the Biden White House said it could not rule out the possibility of COVID-19 having leaked from the Wuhan Animal Lab.

"There's no compelling evidence of people actually being infected through packaging", he said, calling the theory "far-fetched".

"The emergence of a new [disease] is always a sequence of unlikely events", he said.

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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.

Next likely is direct transmission from one of the animals known to carry a similar coronavirus, such as a bat or a pangolin.

The AP received what appeared to be a near-final version on Monday from a Geneva-based diplomat from a WHO-member country. Ahead of its release, senior USA officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressed concern about content and framing of the report, saying Beijing "helped to write it".

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

Arguments for Although the closest-related viruses were found in bats, the evolutionary distance between those bat viruses and the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 disease is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a "missing link" in between, the report said.

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. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyses said that worldwide experts will hold press conferences to explain what came out in their investigation.

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. A study of blood samples from the Wuhan blood bank to look for early COVID-19 cases is another recommended next step-although some outsiders have expressed bewilderment this hasn't yet been done more than 15 months into the pandemic.

Sales records showed 10 stalls at the Huanan market in late December sold animals or products from snakes, poultry, Sika deer, badgers, rabbits, bamboo rats, porcupines, hedgehogs, salamanders, giant salamanders, and crocodiles.

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