Published: Tue, March 30, 2021

World Health Organization report on COVID-19 origin inconclusive, calls for further studies

World Health Organization report on COVID-19 origin inconclusive, calls for further studies

It's unclear how much the report's findings may persuade people convinced that the virus spread from a laboratory.

Global experts would hold a press conference today at 1400 GMT (7pm) to discuss their findings. "I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing".

"All hypotheses are on the table and warrant complete and further studies", World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a news conference on a separate topic. "This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end".

In a press conference held Tuesday following the release of the report, Dr. Thea Fisher said the investigation is the first step in a long journey into discovering the origins of the virus.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged he had received the report over the weekend and said it would be formally presented on Tuesday.

Koopmans' unsafe animal lab experiments and the substantial funding she has received from China for her research suggest she has a stake in pleasing the Chinese government by denying the lab leak theory.

Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said at a regular press briefing: "I can not help but ask, when will the USA be as open and transparent as China on the epidemic and origin-tracing issues?"

"It is clear that that the Chinese government has not provided all the data needed and, until they do, firmer conclusions will be hard", he said in a statement.


The study is based on the visit of a team of worldwide experts to China in January.

The hunt for the virus's origin has been shrouded in controversy since the start of the pandemic, with China criticized for delaying access to scientists and both Beijing and Washington pushing alternative theories about how COVID-19 began. Tedros recommended a full analysis of the trade in animals and products in markets across Wuhan, particularly those linked to early human cases.

"It also drew on national sentinel surveillance data; laboratory confirmations of disease; reports of retail pharmacy purchases for antipyretics (fever reducers), cold and cough medications; a convenience subset of stored samples of more than 4500 research project samples from the second half of 2019 stored at various hospitals in Wuhan, the rest of Hubei Province and other provinces".

Sampling at the market turned up the virus on surfaces but not in samples taken from animals or food sold at the market.

"It is clear that that the Chinese government has not provided all the data needed and, until they do, firmer conclusions will be hard", he said in a statement. The report further suggests that animals in livestock farms in southeast Asia could be "linked to early human cases" and that further study on these farms is needed. Daszak also said it wasn't the WHO's job to determine whether the Chinese government covered up details about the pandemic's origins.

Arguments for Most current human coronaviruses come from animals, the report said. The WHO then sent a team of experts to China for investigation. But he said most scientists agree that bats are the most likely source. The team of scientists came from around the world: Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Viet Nam.

"Seventeen experts, longstanding leaders from the field, including epidemiology, public health, clinical medicine, veterinary medicine, infectious disease, law, food security, biosafety, biosecurity, we have a lot of experts in government, will be reviewing this report intensively and quickly", she said at a daily briefing.

That's always been the favored hypothesis of many virologists, but the team convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) reports little fresh evidence to support it, and members acknowledge several other scenarios, including an accidental release from a lab, remain possible.

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