Covid lab leak theory needs further investigation, World Health Organization head says

US,13 countries concerned WHO COVID-19 origin study was delayed lacked access-statement

The expert report on the origins of Covid-19 concluded that the virus probably came from bats and jumped to humans from another animal. Transmission from bats to humans: Most likelyResearchers have listed four scenarios in order of likelihood for the emergence of the new coronavirus.

The authors suggest that the most productive research would be to find such an animal link, saying the hypothesis of lab leaks was extremely unlikely, according to a draft of the report, which was obtained by Bloomberg News before it's due to be published Tuesday.

The U.S. has "real concerns about the methodology and the process" of the report, including that the Chinese government "apparently helped to write it", Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on CNN.

The report, which is expected to be made public Tuesday, is being closely watched as discovering the origins of the virus could help scientists prevent future pandemics - but it's also extremely sensitive since China bristles at any suggestion that it is to blame for the global Covid crisis.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had earlier made a similar criticism, saying the worldwide team he dispatched to Wuhan had found it hard to get raw data during the mission. "I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough", he said. "By doing this, isn't the United States trying to exert political pressure on the members of the World Health Organization expert group?" asked Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

Dr Ben-Embarek said there was a lot of attention on the investigative team because the "whole world was watching".

"China has provided necessary assistance for the smooth work of the expert group in Wuhan, which fully reflects China's open, transparent and responsible attitude", the Ministry said in statement.

The Associated Press reported this story. "And we have pointed to many additional studies that should be conducted from now on".

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The report adds that another likely source of the virus is direct transmission from one of the animals known to carry a similar coronavirus, such as a bat or a pangolin. In fact, it claimed that the virus did not originate in the country and came into the country from imported frozen food.

While it's possible an infected animal contaminated packaging that was then brought to Wuhan and infected humans, the report said the probability is very low.

Speaking at a virtual press conference after the conclusion of the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing, Li stressed that China will continue to work with the World Health Organization on tracing the origins of COVID-19.

"The WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction", the organisation's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the time.

Dr Tedros said all "hypotheses remain on the table".

He said the team felt political pressure, including from outside China, but that he never was pressed to remove anything from its final report.

The findings mirror what researchers said last month, at the end of their mission to Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the first Covid cases emerged at the end of 2019, and in their subsequent public comments.

Sales records showed 10 stalls at the Huanan market in late December sold animals or products from snakes, poultry, Sika deer, badgers, rabbits, bamboo rats, porcupines, hedgehogs, salamanders, giant salamanders, and crocodiles.

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