Dismissing the alternate theory of coronavirus being leaked to the community from a Chinese lab, the WHO research team announced on Tuesday that the virus most likely first appeared in humans after transmitting from an animal.
Almost a year since the outbreak began from Wuhan wet market in China considered as the epicentre of the pandemic, Covid-19 has claimed more than 2.3 million lives all across the world. Earlier this year, a research team was sent to Wuhan, China to investigate the origins of the virus.
The WHO team , which includes experts from 10 countries arrived in Wuhan on January 14th and visited few hospitals and a seafood market where many early cases were detected. The team on Monday visited the Hubei Provincial Centre for Disease Control and its Wuhan city office .
The team after careful investigations dismissed the lab leak theory which was put forward by the former US President and his administration citing it as extremely unlikely to have happened. The Wuhan Institute of Virology ( WIV) is home to many different virus samples and it was suspected that the scientists at the WIV were experimenting with a virus genetically similar to Sars-Cov-2 before it was leaked into the surrounding community. While many residents and business owners don’t believe this theory, China government strongly rejected the possibility of a virus leak.
“The findings suggest lab incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population,” said Dr Peter Ben Embarek, leader of the WHO investigation.
The team, after many researches have come up with their own ideas based on their investigations about the origin of the virus.
“Evidence collected by the team suggests that it emerged naturally in bats, “Dr Embarek said, and was likely passed to humans via an unconfirmed intermediary animal host, such as a pangolin or bamboo rat. “Transmission directly from bats to humans or through the trade in frozen food products are also possibilities “ Embarek added.
The team is also trying to track the possible route virus introduction through other animal species following the supply chain to the Huanan seafood market where Covid cases were first traced in December 2019.
Professor Liang Wannian, head of the Chinese envoy working on the investigation, said “the virus can survive for long periods at refrigerated temperatures and may have been introduced to the Huanan market via frozen goods “.
Also during their investigations they found out that virus have been spreading in other parts away from the alleged market. First detected case in Wuhan had no link to the seafood market. While the first case from Wuhan was reported on 8th December 2019,the first case linked to Huanan seafood market was detected on 12th December 2019.“We haven’t been able to fully do the research, but there is no indication there were clusters before what we saw happen in the later part of December in Wuhan,” Liang said.
While the mission of this investigation by the WHO team is to understand the origins of the virus, the visit by the WHO team took months to negotiate. China only agreed to it amid international pressure at the WHO’s World Health Assembly meeting last May, and Beijing has continued to resist calls for a strictly independent investigation. Even after the arrival of the team in China, Chinese government put limits on research into the outbreak and ordered scientists not to speak to reporters.
Still, one member of the WHO team, British-born zoologist Peter Daszak, told The Associated Press last week that they enjoyed a greater level of openness than they had anticipated, and that they were granted full access to all sites and personnel they requested.