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WHO team in Wuhan says “extremely unlikely” COVID-19 came from a lab

Beijing — With simply days left in their month-long go to to Wuhan, the World Health Organization’s team of COVID-19 consultants co-hosted their first press convention on Tuesday to share some key findings from the hunt for the coronavirus’ origin.

The greatest takeaway from the practically three-hour occasion was that the scientists consider it is “extremely unlikely” a lab-related accident was the supply of the pandemic, and all present proof “continues to point to a natural reservoir.”

The subsequent step, stated WHO lead investigator and meals security professional Peter Ben Embarek, can be to “look at the possible pathways of introduction of the virus into the human population,” and for any proof that it might need made that leap into people sooner than at present identified.

After weeks in Wuhan, the team was nonetheless unable to answer the overarching question of the place COVID-19 came from.

“From the early days of December 2019, did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand?” Ben Embarek, a Dutch meals security professional, requested rhetorically. “I don’t think so. Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that story? Absolutely.”

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Virologist Marion Koopmans, additionally of the Netherlands, and Liang Wannian of China’s National Health Commission spoke on stage to debate methodology and outcomes on the briefing, which was broadcast on tv and social media around the globe.

Speaking for the WHO’s worldwide team, Ben Embarek laid out 4 hypotheses about COVID-19’s origin and stated the “most likely pathway” in the scientists’ view was that the virus unfold to people by an middleman species that lives near human populations. He stated that idea, just like the others, “will require more targeted research.”

Less probably however “still possible” is the notion that the coronavirus jumped immediately from a major supply animal into people. Many scientists consider COVID-19 initially came from sure species of bats, however they are not simply discovered in Wuhan.

A 3rd speculation is “food chain” transmission, with the virus originating elsewhere after which driving into central China on the surfaces of cold-chain frozen meals packaging.

The least probably idea, in keeping with the WHO team, is a lab-related incident, however the scientists stated that was “not a hypothesis that would imply future study into the origin of the virus.”

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Accidents do happen,” admitted Ben Embarek when challenged on why a laboratory — such because the often-mentioned Wuhan Virology Institute — had been dominated out because the supply of the virus. He stated there had been “no reports” of this coronavirus or one carefully linked to it being labored on in any lab in the world.

He careworn that “it was very unlikely anything could escape” from the utmost biosecurity facility in Wuhan, and lab accidents in normal, he stated, “are extremely rare events.

During the course of the WHO’s month-long keep in China the team has pushed for entry to new proof, and so they did go to now well-known websites together with the Huanan seafood market, as soon as believed to be floor zero, together with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and hospitals that handled the primary coronavirus sufferers.

Whenever new info turns into out there, stated WHO professional Koopmans, “we can take this again and say, ‘okay, with this new information does our assessment of these different entry pathways change?”

That could be anytime, because there are ongoing studies in different parts of the world,” Koopmans famous.

As the WHO’s allotted time window in China — they bought one-month visas — winds down, the scientists careworn that there may nonetheless be years of investigation left to do earlier than the COVID-19 origin is set, if it ever is.

The WHO team’s go to was delayed for months by Chinese officers, who by no means provided any actual rationalization.

Only journalists bodily in Wuhan on the occasion on Tuesday had been allowed to ask questions of the WHO team. The press convention was solely introduced early on Tuesday morning. Face-to-face interviews — even socially distanced — with members of the worldwide team weren’t permitted.