Covid-19 Wuhan lab leak theory ‘extremely unlikely’: WHO

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 10, 2021 Published on February 10, 2021

The World Health Organization has rebutted the theory of coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China, as per media reports.

WHO stated that the novel virus “most likely” emerged in animals and was transmitted to humans. It is unlikely that the virus spilled out of a lab in Wuhan.

This comes as an international team of the WHO has been investigating the origins of the coronavirus for the past few weeks. The team ventured into Huanan Seafood Market, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control laboratory.

Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s food safety and animal disease specialist and chairman of the investigation team, told the media that the “most likely” pathway for Covid was a crossover into humans from an intermediary species.

This hypothesis will “require more studies and more specific (and) targeted research,” he said, as cited in the CNBC report.

The preliminary probe did not find evidence of large Covid outbreaks in Wuhan or elsewhere before December 2019. However, researchers did find evidence of wider Covid circulation outside the Huanan Seafood Market that month, Ben Embarek said.

He further noted that the team is yet to figure out the animal intermediary host for the coronavirus.

“In terms of understanding what happened in the early days of December 2019, did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand? I don’t think so. Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that story? Absolutely,” Ben Embarek said.

The laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population. Therefore, [it] is not in the hypotheses that we will suggest for future studies,” Embarek noted.

He added that the team did not find “sufficiently similar” samples to coronavirus in the widely believed host of the virus -- bats and pangolins.

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Published on February 10, 2021
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