Health

Pandemic Likely Caused by Transmission from Animals, Not Lab Leak: WHO

The coronavirus pandemic most likely began by transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal, a joint study by the World Health Organization and China found.

The Associated Press obtained a draft of the study, which concluded that a lab leak as the cause of the outbreak is “extremely unlikely.”

In the draft obtained by AP, researchers considered several scenarios, including the transmission from bats through another animal, which they considered as likely to very likely. Direct spread from bats to humans was considered a likely scenario, and the connection to humans from packaging of “cold-chain” food products as possible but not likely.

AP reported that while the study didn’t break new ground on the coronavirus, it did encourage research into every aspect of the origins of the pandemic except the lab leak hypothesis. Public health experts worldwide are curious about the report, believing it could be a key to preventing future pandemics.

However, China, sensitive to criticism that it was lethargic in stopping the spread of the virus in its early stages and actively trying to delay its release, may be trying to influence the study’s conclusions to alleviate it from blame. An AP investigation reported last year the Chinese government was strictly managing all research into the pandemic’s origins.

“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 recently on CNN, AP reported.

The Chinese government rejected that notion.

“The U.S. has been speaking out on the report,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, AP reported. “By doing this, isn’t the U.S. trying to exert political pressure on the members of the WHO expert group?”

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