WHO probe points to Wuhan wet market as source of novel coronavirus

WION Web Team
Geneva, Switzerland Published: Mar 13, 2021, 09:26 AM(IST)

The novel coronavirus Photograph:( AFP )

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Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO-led team and a zoologist who specialises in hunting for viral origins in animals, said Wednesday that scientists would likely discover the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic within the next few years, after they pursue and zero in on an animal source for the deadly virus.

The Wuhan wet market is still the most likely hypothesis for the origin of the novel coronavirus, according to members of a World Health Organisation (WHO) delegation to China.

Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO-led team and a zoologist who specialises in hunting for viral origins in animals, said Wednesday that scientists would likely discover the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic within the next few years, after they pursue and zero in on an animal source for the deadly virus.

He added the team had identified a viable conduit between the wet market in Wuhan and to regions where the closest relatives of the novel coronavirus are found in bats, the Evening Standard reported.

"It provides a link and a pathway by which these viruses could convincingly spill over from wildlife into either people or animals farmed in the region and then shipped into the market by some means," he said.

Daszak said that the theory that the virus crossed into domesticated or farmed animals and got into the Wuhan market was the scenario considered most likely by WHO scientists and their Chinese counterparts.

The scientists said they found no evidence to support theories that the disease leaked from the three virology labs in Wuhan and they had been given access to all three, the Evening Standard report added.

Four scientists who joined the month-long mission earlier this year said they had found no evidence to support theories that the outbreak was caused by an accidental lab leak.

Also read | WHO to scrap interim report on COVID-19 origin gathered in Wuhan: Report

The Huanan market there was the site of the first known outbreak of the coronavirus in December 2019.

International team members learned on the trip that meat from animals known to carry coronaviruses belonging to the same family as the pandemic virus were sold in the Huanan market, Daszak said as per the Wall Street Journal.

During a press conference last month, Peter Ben Embarek, the head of the WHO mission in Wuhan, had stated four hypotheses on how the virus spread but reiterated that "laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population".

"Our initial findings suggest that introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely passway 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 had said.

Also read | China scores a public relations win after WHO mission to Wuhan

The findings by the WHO were slammed by the United States, raising concerns over the possibility of the Chinese government's interference in the WHO's recent investigation.

(with inputs)

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