WHO says ‘probably’ pathway of virus was from animals to people, but investigation still a ‘work in progress’

Peter Ben Embarek and Marion Koopmans (R) arrive at a press convention to wrap up a go to by a world crew of specialists from the World Health Organization (WHO) in town of Wuhan in China’s Hefei province on February 9, 2021.


An worldwide crew of scientists led by the World Health Organization stated Tuesday that the seek for how the coronavirus was first launched stays a “work in progress,” with additional analysis wanted into how and whether or not the illness circulated in animals earlier than infecting people.

Scientists have been working in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, the place the illness was first recognized, for the previous 4 weeks as half of their seek for clues to the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The crew of investigators has visited hospitals, laboratories and markets, together with the Huanan Seafood Market, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control laboratory.

The go to, which has been shrouded in secrecy, was additionally anticipated to see researchers communicate with early responders in addition to some of the primary sufferers. The crew accomplished two weeks of quarantine earlier than starting to go to native websites.

Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s meals security and animal illness specialist and chairman of the investigation crew, stated at a press briefing that the “most likely” pathway for Covid was a crossover into people from an middleman species. This speculation will “require more studies and more specific (and) targeted research,” he stated.

The preliminary findings of the investigation didn’t discover proof of giant Covid outbreaks in Wuhan or elsewhere earlier than Dec. 2019. However, researchers did discover proof of wider Covid circulation exterior the Huanan Seafood Market that very same month, Ben Embarek stated.

He added it was not but potential to pinpoint the animal middleman host for the coronavirus, describing the findings after almost a month of conferences and web site visits as “work in progress.”

“In terms of understanding what happened in the early days of December 2019, did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand? I don’t think so,” Ben Embarek stated.

“Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that story? Absolutely,” he stated.

The WHO has sought to handle expectations of a definitive conclusion to the origins of the Covid pandemic. To put the mission in a broader context, it took greater than a decade to discover the origins of SARS, whereas the origins of Ebola — first recognized in the 1970s — is still not but identified.

It is hoped that data of the earliest identified circumstances of the coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan in late 2019, may assist to determine how the outbreak began and stop related pandemics in the longer term.

After issues about entry and delays in acquiring visas, the World Health Organization-led crew arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 14 to examine the origin of the coronavirus alongside Chinese scientists.

Bats and pangolins

International concern

The WHO has beforehand cited genetic sequencing that confirmed the coronavirus had began in bats and certain jumped to one other animal earlier than infecting people.

Many of the folks that had fallen sick with the brand new virus in Wuhan, a metropolis with a inhabitants of roughly 11 million, had been reported to have had hyperlinks to the Huanan Seafood Market.

Scientists initially suspected the virus got here from wild animals bought on the seafood market, prompting China to swiftly limit public entry to the market initially of final yr.

China’s CDC has since stated samples taken from the seafood market recommend it was a place the place the virus unfold, not the place the outbreak first emerged.

Further to this, China’s Liang stated on Tuesday that Huanan Seafood Market was one of the locations the place the coronavirus first emerged, but he added it was not potential with present proof to decide how the virus was first launched to the seafood market.

Security personnel stand guard exterior the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan as members of the World Health Organization (WHO) crew investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus make a go to to the institute in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on February 3, 2021.


The origins of the coronavirus stay necessary as a result of the virus is consistently evolving, as extremely infectious mutant strains recognized in the U.Ok. and South Africa show.

To date, greater than 106 million folks have contracted the coronavirus worldwide and it has precipitated at the least 2.32 million deaths, in accordance to information compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S., by far, has reported the very best quantity of confirmed Covid circumstances and deaths, with greater than 27 million reported infections and 465,072 fatalities.

China has revealed little data on its analysis into the origins of the coronavirus and there had been widespread worldwide concern about what the researchers in Wuhan can be allowed to see and do as half of their investigation.

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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