World Health Organization says virus origins report will be released on Tuesday


World Health Organization chief releasing the much-awaited report on the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus cited difficulties in accessing raw data and called for deeper research on Covid-19 as the current assessment has not been extensive enough.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had earlier made a similar criticism, saying the global team he dispatched to Wuhan had found it hard to get raw data during the mission.

"The team has confirmed that there was widespread contamination with Sars-CoV-2 in the Huanan market in Wuhan, but could not determine the source of this contamination", said Dr Tedros. "It was extremely useful", Peter Daszak, a member of the World Health Organization team that traveled to Wuhan, said in an interview last month. "From what I've seen, there was nothing shocking and unexpected in there".

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has kept close communication and cooperation with the World Health Organization in an open and transparent spirit, according to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin. "I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing".

The final report, a joint WHO-China study, which AFP obtained Monday ahead of its official release, spelled out how the joint team of Chinese scientists and worldwide experts thrashed out the hierarchy of probability.

An global team of experts travelled to Wuhan in January to probe the origins of the virus.

The report was written jointly by a team of 17 scientists from around the world and 17 Chinese scientists. The WHO has repeatedly said the report's conclusions are independent and belong to the authors. Transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal was very likely, it said.

Direct transmission from an animal species into the human population.

Scientists have concluded that a leak from a laboratory is the least likely hypothesis, after visiting several facilities.

WHO report says animals likeliest origin of Covid-19, minimises lab hypothesis
WHO says virus origins report will be released on Tuesday

Referring to the team's investigation into the theory that the pandemic could have resulted from a laboratory leak, Tedros said that he did "not believe that this assessment was extensive enough".

The market was identified early in the pandemic as a likely incubator of SARS-CoV-2, resembling the spawning in Guangdong province in 2002 of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) - a bat-borne coronavirus that spread to civets and raccoon dogs before killing about 800 people.

The market was an early suspect because some stalls sold a range of unusual animals, and some wondered if they had brought the new virus to Wuhan.

The report recommends a host of further studies, in particular, sampling for the virus in wildlife and in farmed animals to find a possible intermediate host.

"Many of the early cases were associated with the Huanan market, but a similar number of cases were associated with other markets and some were not associated with any markets".

Critics pointed to the team's heavy reliance on Chinese data for its initial conclusions, while others say the great bulk of that data suggests the virus emerged in the country anyway.

China has refuted the claims and says that although Wuhan is where the first cluster of cases was detected, it is not necessarily where the virus originated.

Ben Embarek said team members faced political pressure from "all sides", but insisted "We were never pressured to remove critical elements in our report". Top Biden administration officials on Sunday expressed concern about the way the WHO-China report was crafted, including the possibility that the Chinese government had a hand in writing it.

"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", US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent CNN interview.

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