The coronavirus most likely appeared in bats before it spread to humans through another animal. This emerges from a report released Tuesday by the World Health Organization that contains some references to an issue that has become politically tense on charges of Beijing interference.
A team of experts who recently visited the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first discovered in late 2019, was also dismissed, according to the report on the origin of the pandemic that the New York Times received prior to its publication could have accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory, is “extremely unlikely”.
Officials in the US and elsewhere expressed concern about China’s efforts to recreate the narrative of the Wuhan outbreak that authorities were initially trying to hide.
Critics have reviewed the W.H.O. Team as inadequate, say the global health agency has been too respectful of Beijing. Chinese scientists, many of whom are affiliated with the government, helped monitor the investigation and the report was repeatedly delayed due to delicate negotiations with Chinese officials. China tried for months to delay investigators’ visit to avoid reviewing its early mistakes in managing the pandemic.
The Chinese government has defended its approach and stated that it cooperates fully with the W.H.O.
In the 123-page report, the scientists outlined various theories that might explain how the virus first spread to humans. The findings of the document were first released by The Associated Press on Monday.
The report was co-authored by a team of 17 scientists from around the world and 17 Chinese scientists. The experts conducted an informational visit to Wuhan for 27 days in January and February.
During the Wuhan visit, Chinese officials refused to provide raw data on some of the earliest possible virus cases involving the W.H.O. Team frustrating some of the visiting scholars.
China’s lack of transparency and other concerns prompted a small group of scientists outside the World Health Organization to call for a new investigation into the origin of the pandemic this month. They said such an investigation should consider the possibility that the virus has escaped from or infected someone in a laboratory in Wuhan.
The laboratory leak theory was promoted by a number of Trump administration officials, including Dr. Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, endorsed it in comments on CNN last week. He did not provide any evidence and insisted that it was his opinion; The theory has been largely rejected by scientists and US intelligence officials.
Matt Apuzzo contributed to the coverage.