COVID-19: WHO team dismisses ‘lab leak’ theory of coronavirus origin in China

Beijing: A team of World Health Organization (WHO) visiting China to probe the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan on Tuesday (February 9, 2021) dismissed the `lab leak` theory of the coronavirus.

Peter Ben Embarek, the Danish food safety expert leading the international team said his group will not recommend further investigation into the theory that the virus was accidentally leaked from labs conducting coronavirus research, as per the Washington Post.

Embarek said, following a 12-day visit to the Chinese city, that the judgment was based on “long, frank, open discussions with researchers and management” at institutions including the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

“Our initial findings suggest that introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pass way and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research … The findings suggest that a laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population,” the WHO expert said.

British member Peter Daszak who has collaborated with the WIV through his EcoHealth Alliance nonprofit, on Twitter wrote that it was a unanimous the decision to downplay lab theory among the 17-member team.

The global health body stated four hypotheses on how the virus spread: direct zoonotic spillover; introduction through intermediary host species; food chain, frozen food products, surface transmission; and finally a laboratory-related incident, Sputnik quoted him as saying.

Though the laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population, the WHO expert said.

“It has not been possible to pinpoint any animal species as a potential reservoir for this disease, and they indicate that currently and also back in 2019 it does not look like there was the circulation of the virus in any animal species in the country,” he said.

The WHO has been investigating the reports of pneumonia-like symptoms emerging from Wuhan in December 2019, which led to the identification of a new coronavirus it triggered a global pandemic that has infected more than 90 million people and killed more than 1.9 million.

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