A new study on the origins of COVID-19 has shown that the virus likely was secondarily transmitted from bats to humans.
The joint World Health Organization – China study opined that a likely scenario is another animal transmitted the virus from bats to humans as the Lab leak scenario was `extremely unlikely”.
According to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press, the team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis _ a speculative theory that was promoted by former U.S. President Donald Trump among others. It also said the role played by a seafood market where human cases were first identified was uncertain.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, said he would like to see the report’s raw information first before deciding about its credibility.
” I’d also like to inquire as to the extent to which the people who were on that group had access directly to the data that they would need to make a determination,” he said. “I want to read the report first and then get a feel for what they really had access to — or did not have access to.”
The report, which is expected to be made public Tuesday, is being closely watched since discovering the origins of the virus could help scientists prevent future pandemics.
Matthew Kavanagh of Georgetown University said the report deepened the understanding of the virus’s origins, but more information was needed.
““It is clear that that the Chinese government has not provided all the data needed and, until they do, firmer conclusions will be difficult,“ he said in a statement.
Last year, an AP investigation found the Chinese government was strictly controlling all research into its origins. And repeated delays in the report’s release have raised questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew its conclusions.
“”We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent CNN interview.
Meanwhile, China rejected that criticism on Monday, arguing that the US was trying to exert political pressure on the members of the WHO expert group.
The U.S. has been speaking out on the report. By doing this, isn’t the U.S. trying to exert political pressure on the members of the WHO expert group?” asked Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
Still, suspicion of China has helped fuel the theory that the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus was first identified. The report cited several reasons for all but dismissing that possibility.
It said that such laboratory accidents are rare and the labs in Wuhan working on coronaviruses and there is no record of viruses closely related to the coronavirus in any laboratory before December 2019
The report is based largely on a visit by a WHO team of international experts to Wuhan. The mission was never meant to identify the exact natural source of the virus, an endeavor that typically takes years. For instance, more than 40 years of study has still failed to pinpoint the exact species of bat that are the natural reservoir of Ebola.
In the draft obtained by the AP, the researchers listed four scenarios in order of likelihood for the emergence of the new coronavirus.
Topping the list was a transmission from bats through another animal, which they said was likely to very likely. They evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely and said that spread to humans from the packaging of “cold-chain” food products as possible but not likely.
That last possibility was previously dismissed by the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but researchers on this mission have taken it up again, further raising questions about the politicization of the study since China has long pushed the theory.