World Health Organization report says animals likeliest origin of Covid-19, minimises lab hypothesis

Covid 'most likely' came from bats and China lab leak theory 'extremely unlikely' WHO report concludes

The findings, first reported by the Associated Press, match what World Health Organization experts have said previously about their conclusions following a Jan-Feb visit to the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the first human cases were detected in late 2019. He said it would be officially presented Tuesday. They evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely, and said that spread to humans from the packaging of "cold-chain" food products was possible but not likely.

"It also drew on national sentinel surveillance data; laboratory confirmations of disease; reports of retail pharmacy purchases for antipyretics (fever reducers), cold and cough medications; a convenience subset of stored samples of more than 4500 research project samples from the second half of 2019 stored at various hospitals in Wuhan, the rest of Hubei Province and other provinces".

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top USA infectious diseases expert, said he would like to see the report's raw information first before deciding about its credibility.

"We were surprised to find that the specific interaction between ACE2 glycans and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is what makes the separation of the virus from cells so hard", says Im, who is a professor of bioengineering, computer science, chemistry and biological sciences, as well as the Presidential Endowed Chair in Health, Science and Engineering at Lehigh.

He said a mission briefing would be held between the worldwide experts and the WHO's 194 member states on Tuesday, after which the report would be published on the organisation's website.

It also pointed out that "antibodies to bat coronavirus proteins have been found in humans with close contact to bats".

Because of its apparent ability to spread more easily and rapidly than the original strain that caused the pandemic, it is expected to eventually become the dominant form of the virus in the US, and over 10,000 cases have now been identified in all states except Oklahoma.

It said highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, which are another kind of mammal, but scientists have yet to identify the same coronavirus in animals that has been infecting humans.

China has been trying to deflect criticism of its handling of the pandemic amid growing scrutiny over the pathogen's origins, including speculation promoted by the former Trump administration that the SARS-CoV-2 virus leaked from a Wuhan lab.

Possible but not probable is transmission from frozen or chilled food, and least likely is an accidental laboratory release, the report finds. And repeated delays in the report's release have raised questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew its conclusions.

Myanmar: Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing vows to 'safeguard democracy'
The group also said that as of Thursday, 2,981 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced in the crackdown since February 1. Other media outlets reported at least seven protesters were wounded when security forces opened fire in various places.

Coronavirus patients are treated in hospital in Wuhan, China. China's government is concerned the research could draw attention to how it dealt with the virus and possibly open it up to worldwide criticism or legal action.

Vaccines have offered a glimmer of hope and allowed some countries to emerge from more than a year of punishing anti-virus measures.

An AP investigation earlier this year found that China was strongly controlling all coronavirus-related research and banned researchers from speaking to the media.

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 does not require any approval by member states.

The U.S. government has questioned whether the WHO-convened experts were given enough access to reach a reliable conclusion.

"Isn't the USA trying to exert political pressure on the members of the World Health Organization expert group?"

The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do was the editor.

"We haven't swum since the fifth of January so we were beyond excited to come back and get back into the water", swimmer Jessica Walker told AFP at a pool in London.

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