A joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and China investigating the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan concluded that a laboratory leak is “extremely unlikely,” the Associated Press reported after seeing a draft of the team’s report that it was leaked to the media.
The document, which was recently shared with WHO member states, purportedly says that the most likely of the four scenarios the researchers evaluated is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, was transmitted from bats. to humans through another animal.
The researchers also evaluated the possibility of the virus spreading directly from bats to humans. They say spread through “cold chain” food products was possible but not likely, the AP reported.
The draft report does not determine whether the outbreak started in a Wuhan seafood market, which had one of the first clusters of cases in December 2019.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the report was received over the weekend from the team that traveled to Wuhan and will be published on Tuesday.
“All hypotheses are on the table and warrant full and further study. I will have more to say after further review of the report,” Dr. Tedros said at a news conference Monday.
The WHO report on the origins of the virus has been eagerly awaited for the answers it could provide on preventing future pandemics.
But the team has also been criticized for delays in getting to the ground, its methodology and the involvement of China, which has rejected criticism for its early handling of COVID-19.
The Biden administration had welcomed the news in early March that the WHO would delay the release of the interim report amid concerns about how the first findings were communicated.
“We have real concerns about the methodology and process that was included in that report, including the fact that the Beijing government apparently helped draft it, but let’s see what comes out in that report,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. he said in a recent interview with CNN.
“Our focus should be on building a stronger system for the future,” he added.
China rejected criticism of its participation in the report, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian asked whether the United States was “trying to exert political pressure on members of the WHO expert group by speaking.”
Although many experts have said that animal-to-human transmission was the most likely source of the virus, some have said that a laboratory leak scenario should be considered.
Former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield told CNN recently that he personally believed that the most likely origin of the coronavirus was that it originated in a laboratory in Wuhan.
“It is not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory infect a laboratory worker,” the former CDC chief told CNN, emphasizing that it was his “opinion.”
“I don’t think this somehow passed from a bat to a human being and at that moment, the virus reached the human being, it became one of the most infectious viruses that we know of in humanity for person to person transmission. “, He said. saying.
The WHO preliminary report provides several reasons for ruling out the laboratory leak scenario. The researchers claim that laboratory accidents are rare and there is no record of viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in any laboratory prior to December 2019, according to the AP.
As early as March 2020, a signed letter from 27 scientists argued that the most likely origin of the virus was wildlife.
Scientists denounced suggestions that the virus did not have a natural origin as conspiracy theories.
The 10-nation WHO team stayed for nearly a month and visited markets, hospitals and research centers, including the highly secure Wuhan Institute of Virology that has been the subject of speculation due to its large collection of bat virus samples.
But the mission has still been criticized by some experts concerned about its independence.
Several scientists from Europe, the US and Australia said in a March 2021 letter that the WHO team “did not have the mandate, independence or access to carry out a full and unrestricted investigation of all Relevant SARS-CoV-2. Hypothesis of origin “.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism