(NPR) Was it a few raccoon dogs, inside a metal cage and stacked on top of a chicken coop? Or perhaps a lone red fox, curled up in the corner of its cage. Could one of these wild animals have triggered the entire COVID-19 pandemic late in 2019?
Over the weekend, an international team of scientists published two extensive papers online, offering the strongest evidence to date that the COVID-19 pandemic originated in animals at a market in Wuhan, China. Specifically, they conclude that the coronavirus most likely jumped from a caged wild animal into people at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where a huge COVID-19 outbreak began in December 2019.
Scientists who weren’t involved in the research papers are calling the new data “very convincing” and a “blow” to the lab-leak theory — that the virus somehow escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which does research on coronaviruses. In reaction to the papers, they say the newly published data is tipping the scales toward wildlife sold at the market.