COVID Likely Originated From Infected Animal Rather Than a Lab Leak, New Scientific Report Suggests

The COVID-19 pandemic likely originated from an infected wild animal rather than a lab leak, a new scientific report has revealed.


In a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal

Cell


, experts from across the world presented evidence that the theory of an animal passing the coronavirus to a human at a live animal market in Wuhan is more probable than the scenario of the virus emanating from a laboratory leak.

“There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has a laboratory origin” and “there is no evidence that any early cases had any connection to the WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology]”, the reports argues.

The document asserts that “the suspicion that SARS-CoV-2 might have a laboratory origin stems from the coincidence that it was first detected in a city that houses a major virological laboratory that studies coronaviruses”.


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AFP 2021 / HECTOR RETAMAL

An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory (L) at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on April 17, 2020

University of Utah scientist Stephen Goldstein, one of the authors of the report, said in an interview that “the discussion over the origins of the pandemic has become politicised and heated, and we [researchers] felt the time was right to take a critical look at all of the available evidence”.

According to the report, maps pinpointing the geographic locations of the first wave of coronavirus cases in December 2019 indicated that they initially emerged near the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan and other markets with live animal trading.

“It tells us where the epidemic began and where intense transmission” started, Goldstein, an evolutionary virologist, pointed out.

He added that if one looks at the location of the first cases in Wuhan, “there’s a really striking concentration of those cases starting in the neighbourhoods surrounding this [Huanan] market and spreading outward from there”.


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AFP 2021 / JOHANNES EISELE

Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli is seen inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province, on February 23, 2017

“Similarly, the excess deaths observed in Wuhan begin in the part of the city that includes that market and then spread to other parts of the city”, the virologist noted.

Touching upon the theory of COVID escaping from a laboratory, he insisted that “there’s no real reason to put any weight on the possibility of a lab leak right now”.

“We’ve got nothing that points to the lab other than suspicion and innuendo based on the idea of not trusting China. Nobody should trust the Chinese government, but we just take a critical look at the evidence that is available and saying what is most likely”, Goldstein said.

China Slams US Intel Report on COVID Origins as Compilation of ‘Predetermined Conclusions’

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin took aim at a soon-to-be-published report by the US intelligence community about the origins of the coronavirus.

“The US intelligence services have a bad reputation. Their so-called research will never be based on facts and truth. It will be nothing more than a compilation of different information in order to shift the blame and prove predetermined conclusions with the help of selected evidence. This does not inspire any trust”, Wang claimed.

He urged Washington to stop politicising the issue of COVID-19’s origins, something that Wang said undermines international cooperation in this field.

White House spokesman Jen Psaki earlier said that the report will be presented to President Joe Biden later on Tuesday before being made public.


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REUTERS / NIH/Handout


‘We May Never Know’ COVID-19 Origins, Claims Scientist Who Failed to Find ‘Smoking Gun’ of SARS

Last week, China rejected

the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s

call “to work together” on the UN health body’s second probe into the origins of the coronavirus, insisting that the initial WHO-led inquiry in March was sufficient and that Beijing prefers scientific to political efforts to find out how “the worst pandemic in a century” started. In its first probe, the WHO called the leak of COVID-19 from a laboratory very unlikely, also suggesting the coronavirus was most likely transmitted to humans from bats via another animal.

In late May, President Biden gave the US intelligence community 90 days to produce a report re-examining the origins of the coronavirus and determining whether the disease escaped from a lab or spread from an infected animal to a human.

The previous US administration repeatedly claimed COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, with ex-President Donald Trump referring to the disease as the “China virus”. Beijing has consistently rejected the allegations, calling on Washington to stop politicising the issue and insisting that the coronavirus may have been leaked from a US Army lab.