İrem UZUN -TDO- The coronavirus most likely first appeared in humans after jumping from an animal, a team of international and Chinese scientists looking for the origins of COVID-19 said Tuesday, dismissing as unlikely an alternate theory that the virus leaked from a Chinese lab. A closely watched visit by World Health Organization experts to Wuhan did not dramatically change the current understanding of the early days of the pandemic, said Peter Ben Embarek, the leader of the WHO team. But it did “add details to that story,” he said at a news conference as the group wrapped up a nearly four-week visit to the city.
The WHO team-which includes experts from 10 countries- arrived in Wuhan from Singapore on January 14 and spent the first two weeks working by video conference from a hotel while in quarantine. The WHO team’s mission is intended to be an initial step delving into the origins of the virus, which is believed to have originated in bats before being passed to humans through another species of wild animal, such as a pangolin or bamboo rat, which is considered an exotic delicacy by some in China.
The WHO team's visit is politically sensitive for Beijing, which is concerned about being blamed for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak. An AP investigation has found that the Chinese government put limits on research into the outbreak and ordered scientists not to speak to reporters. Still, one member of the WHO team, British-born zoologist Peter Daszak, told The Associated Press last week that they enjoyed a greater level of openness than they had anticipated, and that they were granted full access to all sites and personnel they requested.