WHO rejects investigation into COVID-19 virus leaking from Wuhan laboratory, calling the theory unlikely


A World Health Organization research team investigated the origins of the coronavirus epidemic and underlined the possibility that the virus had leaked from a laboratory near Wuhan, China, at a press conference on Tuesday.

Instead, the coronavirus may have spread from one animal to another, said WHO food safety and animal disease expert Peter Ben Embarek. The WHO and China have faced strong criticism worldwide for their pandemic response, as China has been blocking the entry of WHO investigators into Wuhan for months; they finally arrived in mid-January this year.

“Our first results suggest that introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely path, requiring further investigation and more specific, targeted research,” Embarek told reporters.

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“However, the results suggest that the hypothesis of laboratory incidents is highly unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” Embarek said. “Therefore, it is not a hypothesis that we suggest proposing future studies … to understand the origin of the virus.”

Embarek made the assessment at the end of a visit to Wuhan, central China, where a team of scientists is investigating the possible origins of the coronavirus. The first cases were discovered in December 2019 in the city.

A diagram by Peter Ben Embarek of the World Health Organization team showing the ways the virus has spread at a joint press conference at the end of a WHO mission in Wuhan, China, on Tuesday.
(AP photo / Ng Han Guan)

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has collected extensive virus samples that suggest it may have caused the original epidemic by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has firmly rejected this possibility and supported other theories that the virus may have originated elsewhere. The team is considering a number of theories as to how the disease first spread to humans.

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The WHO team consists of experts from 10 countries. Its mission is an initial step that delves into the origin of the virus, which is thought to come from bats before it reaches humans through another wild species, such as pangolinone, which is considered exotic, or bamboo rats. delicacy of some in China.

After a visit to Wuhan by a World Health Organization team last week, there is a view of the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

After a visit to Wuhan by a World Health Organization team last week, there is a view of the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
(AP photo / Ng Han Guan)

Transmission through the trade in frozen products was also a likely option, Embarek said.

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WHO critics say China is over-influencing the world’s health organization. President Biden said he would re-engage with the WHO – reversing the withdrawal of former President Donald Trump from the controversial UN body to deal with the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.

Associated Press and Fox News Adam Shaw contributed to the report.