COVID-19 Probably Passed From Bats To Humans Through Another Animal

Peter Ben Embarek a member of the World Health Organization team tasked with investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic speaks during a news conference at a hotel in Wuhan China in February. | REUTERS

"All hypotheses are open, from what I read from the report. and warrant complete and further studies", Tedros said.

A joint World Health Organization-China study on the origins of Covid-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is "extremely unlikely", according to a draft copy.

The 400-page report, drawn up by the team which carried out a mission to the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the virus was first encountered in late 2019, is to be issued on Tuesday after diplomats from WHO's 194 member states are briefed on its findings, Tedros said.

The final report of an global expert mission to the Chinese city where the first Covid-19 outbreak happened in late 2019 says the coronavirus causing the disease most likely had a zoonotic origin, according to news agencies citing leaked copies of the report.

The researchers proposed further study into all of the possibilities except for the lab leak theory.

The release of the report has been repeatedly delayed, raising questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew the conclusions to prevent blame for the pandemic falling on China.

Covid-19 is thought to have originated from Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China.

The report from the worldwide mission to Wuhan has therefore been keenly anticipated ever since the expert team left China more than a month ago.

The report argued there was no record of a virus resembling SARS-CoV-2 in any laboratory before December 2019 and stressed high safety levels at the Wuhan labs.

Pleasanton-based Gritstone Oncology, which specializes in immunotherapies for cancers and infectious diseases, says that it's Coral vaccine candidate has "potential for both prolonged protection and potency" against COVID-19 and the emerging variants - which contain different and more infectious versions of the Spike protein found in the original COVID strains.

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They concluded that transmission through a second animal was likely to very likely.

"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 interview with CNN.

The researchers listed four scenarios in order of likelihood.

"Although the closest related viruses have been found in bats, the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link", the report said.

The long-awaited study has been repeatedly delayed since it was commissioned past year, prompting doubts about input from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its aim of diverting attention away from the controversial government research laboratory, at one stage implicating the United States military, without evidence, and urging the W.H.O.to launch probes into the virus's origins outside of China.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the United Nations health agency had received the report over the weekend, adding that all theories on how the virus entered humans remained on the table.

Research published a year ago in the journal Lancet suggested the market may have merely served to further spread the disease rather than being its source.

They also said it remained unclear what role the Wuhan market had played in sparking or amplifying the initial outbreak, and presented no clear answer on how the virus first jumped to humans. The report noted that a range of animal products - including everything from bamboo rats to deer, often frozen - were sold at the market, as were live crocodiles.

"There is no conclusive evidence for foodborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the probability of a cold-chain contamination with the virus from a reservoir is very low", it says.

Keaten reported from Geneva. The AP is exclusively responsible for all content.

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