A joint committee of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and China's National Health Committee investigating the origin of the SARS-CoV 2 virus in Wuhan stated that they have not found the animal from which the virus that causes COVID-19 transmitted to humans.
They also announced that there has been no evidence suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 was in widespread circulation in Wuhan, Hubei province China before the reported cases in the latter half of December 2019.
The first case that was reported from the Huanan sea food market in the second half of December 2019, was widely reported to have been introduced into humans through bats. The committee, however, believes that this transmission route is highly unlikely. Peter Ben Embarek, WHO virus expert, also added that the hypothesis that the virus originated from a lab is also an area which the WHO will not further pursue as it was false.
Embarek discussed the four hypotheses that the WHO and the Chinese NHC were assessing to determine the origin of this virus as well as understand if the virus was present and in circulation before it was first reported.
The four hypotheses are as follows:
1. Direct zoonotic spillover from an animal reservoir.
2. Introduction of the virus through an intermediary host species closer to animals.
3. Through trade of cold chain products.
4. Laboratory related incident.
Both the organisations believe that the introduction of the virus through an intermediary host species along with the trade of cold chain products were the most plausible reasons of the emergence of the virus. They further stated that they believe that the transmission from a direct source as well as a laboratory incident are both unlikely events.
Liang Wannian, heading the Chinese team stated that bats and pangolins were assumed to be the natural reservoirs while minsks and cats could also be potential reservoirs for SARS-CoV-2. Wannian also further stated that through all the sero-surveys and studies conducted across Wuhan and the country it has emerged that there is no evidence supporting the theory that SARS-CoV-2 was not in Wuhan before it was officially reported in December 2019.
The Chinese officials conducted tests on patients suffering from pneumonia, influenza like illnesses, severe acute respiratory illnesses, pharmacies as well as death records to ascertain if COVID-19 was present in the city before it was reported. They claim to have found no evidence for the same.
Embarek as well as Wannian remarked that the cold chain frozen produce manufactured domestically as well as imported could be potential sources for the transmission of the virus which led to one of the reporters asking that whether they were implicating that the virus did not originate from China. Wannian in response suggested that international scientists should now support the WHO's endeavours to trace the origin of the virus along with China.
Huanan sea food market which was considered to be the place where the virus emerged from was only one cluster, the officials stated. At the same time as the outbreak of cases linked to the particular market, there were other sporadic cases in the other markets as well as in the city, said Embarek.
Even after a year of COVID-19 being declared as a national emergency, with over 106 million cases and 2.3 million deaths, the origin of the virus still remains unclear.
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