WHO says coronavirus likely came from animal to human, not from laboratory

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Updated: March 4, 2021

A World Health Organization investigative team said at a news conference in China on Tuesday that the virus that causes COVID-19 most likely jumped from animals to humans, and not from a laboratory, a theory promoted by China.

The leader of the WHO team said it was also probable that the virus may have been transmitted to humans through frozen food, another theory often promoted by China.

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However, the WHO team acknowledged that the most likely scenario was that the virus was transmitted naturally from an animal into humans.

That transmission may have come from a bat to a small mammal that may have infected a person, and then other persons.

The participants at the press briefing on Tuesday included Mr Mi Feng, National Health Commission of China, Spokesperson, Dr Liang Wannian, Chinese team lead and Executive Vice Dean of school of public health at Tsinghua, Dr Peter Ben Embarek, WHO International Team Lead, and Professor Marion Koopmans, member of the WHO international team and Head, Department of Viroscience, University of Rotterdam.

A Danish food-safety expert who spoke on behalf of the WHO, Peter Ben Embarek, asked “Did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand?” and he responded, “I don’t think so.””Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that picture? Absolutely.”

Scientists from the World Health Organization were only allowed in China recently, a year after the coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan.

With more than 2 million people dead worldwide, China held what it labeled a “WHO-China Joint Study Press Conference” at Hilton Optics Valley Hotel, Wuhan on Tuesday.

However, many questions remained unanswered. For instance, whether there was any definitive link between a coronavirus study that was being carried out on bats at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the pandemic that eventually shut down the world and killed millions of people. Also, why it took so long for the Chinese authorities to allow independent scientists in was not fully addressed.

Officials promised to hold more press briefings for more transparency in the coming weeks or months.

For a year, WHO scientists tried in vail to visit Wuhan and carry out an independent study on the origin of the deadly respiratory disease. And for a year, the Chinese government postponed their visit.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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