Animal carrier 'very likely' started pandemic — World Health Organization coronavirus report

SWITZERLAND-HEALTH-VIRUS-WHO

SWITZERLAND-HEALTH-VIRUS-WHO

The World Health Organization chief on Tuesday criticised the lack of data access from China for the study on the origins of COVID-19.

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 scientists suggested future studies take a wider geographical approach, including Southeast Asia, and investigate susceptible animal species more closely. Possible host species include mink, pangolins, rabbits and ferret badgers, the report said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said experts from seven different USA government organisations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health and the Department of Homeland Security had the report in hand. "From what I've seen, there was nothing shocking and unexpected in there".

China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team, one of the team's investigators has already said, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the global pandemic began.

The expert report on the origins of Covid-19 concluded that the virus probably came from bats and jumped to humans from another animal.

The Associated Press published comments from the report earlier.

The WHO declared on January 30, 2020, that COVID-19 constituted an global emergency, its highest level of alert. "There are no firm conclusions", Ben Embarek said.

Topping the list was transmission from bats through another animal, which they said was likely to very likely.

"A laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely", it said.

It presented data gathered by Chinese scientists and analyzed by the worldwide team, recommending further study of the possible path of transmission between species and through frozen food - a fringe theory favored by the Chinese government.

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When Premier Doug Ford was asked the same question less than two hours later, his answer was less definitive. At the same time, the government is prepared to halt in-class learning if cases jump within a school.

Sales records showed 10 stalls at the Huanan market in late December sold animals or products from snakes, poultry, Sika deer, badgers, rabbits, bamboo rats, porcupines, hedgehogs, salamanders, giant salamanders, and crocodiles.

It also pointed out that "antibodies to bat coronavirus proteins have been found in humans with close contact to bats".

Meanwhile, the US, United Kingdom and 12 other countries issued a joint statement "expressing shared concerns" about the WHO-convened study in China, saying it was "significantly delayed" and lacked access to complete data. Tedros recommended a full analysis of the trade in animals and products in markets across Wuhan, particularly those linked to early human cases.

"China has provided necessary assistance for the smooth work of the expert group in Wuhan, which fully reflects China's open, transparent and responsible attitude", the Ministry said in statement.

The U.S. government has questioned whether the WHO-convened experts were given enough access to reach a reliable conclusion. Their research relied on samples and evidence provided by Chinese officials.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently told CNN they have "real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into the report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it".

In a statement delivered to member states during a briefing on the WHO's long-awaited report into the origins of the pandemic, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, issued a rare rebuke to China.

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