The blue ribbon team of experts assembled by the World Health Organization to determine how the coronavirus originated says that the virus almost certainly did not originate in a lab, but instead, crossed over into humans from an unknown intermediary species.
The experts spent the last 4 weeks in Wuhan province investigating markets and labs, and talking to some of the first COVID-19 patients. Their findings confirm what other scientists have been saying for months; the coronavirus is not a bio-weapon developed by China that was leaked — deliberately or accidentally — from a research lab in Wuhan.
The experts say the first cases of COVID-19 did not appear until December 2019 and spread very quickly throughout the province. It may have originated in the “wet market” in Wuhan but there is no definitive proof.
Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s food safety and animal disease specialist and chairman of the investigation, said, “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.”
“Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that story? Absolutely,” he said.
The WHO has sought to manage expectations of a definitive conclusion to the origins of the Covid pandemic. To put the mission in a broader context, it took more than a decade to find the origins of SARS, while the origins of Ebola — first identified in the 1970s — [are] still not yet known.
It is hoped that information of the earliest known cases of the coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan in late 2019, could help to identify how the outbreak started and prevent future pandemics.
The Chinese Communist Party has tried their best to place roadblocks before the experts, delaying their entrance into the country and dragging their feet in approving all the paperwork. And it’s still not entirely clear what kind of access they have been granted — especially to one of the Wuhan labs that also does work for the Chinese Red Army.
“The laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population,” Ben Embarek said. “Therefore, [it] is not in the hypotheses that we will suggest for future studies.”
The team had reached the conclusion that a lab leak should be regarded as extremely unlikely “on the basis of a serious discussion and very diligent research,” added Liang Wannian, head of the expert Covid panel at China’s National Health Commission.
Researchers who have been looking at the structure of the coronavirus have not seen any indications that it was tampered with or that it was “created” in a laboratory. But I don’t think any explanation coming from these scientists will satisfy those who find it more comfortable to believe the coronavirus was man-made and let loose upon an insuspecting world by the evil Chinese. Or that it was a terrible accident that the Chinese are desperate to cover up.
There have been cases of animal viruses leaping across species to humans for thousands of years. It’s going to happen again, so it would be very helpful to find out how this happens and prepare for the next time.