WUHAN, China (AP) — The coronavirus is unlikely to have leaked from a Chinese lab and is more likely to have jumped to humans from an animal, a World Health Organization team has concluded, an expert said Tuesday as the group wrapped up a visit to explore the origins of the virus.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China has collected extensive virus samples, leading to allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has strongly rejected that possibility and has promoted other theories for the virus’s origins. The WHO team that visited Wuhan, where the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in December 2019, is considering several theories for how the disease first ended up in humans, leading to a pandemic that has now killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide.
“Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research,” WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said at a news conference Tuesday.
“However, the findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population” and will not be suggested as an avenue of future study, Embarek.