Covid mystery rages as WHO 'whitewash' claims virus could have started in bats or frozen meat from OUTSIDE China
MYSTERY rages as the World Health Organisation announced findings from its probe in China which left world no closer to figuring out where Covid came from.
The highly anticipated news conference on Covid's origins this morning lasted nearly three hours – but left more questions than it offered answers.
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With no breakthrough discoveries to offer after the ten scientists spent 14 days on carefully managed visits organised by the Chinese state to key sites in Wuhan, the the probe is facing allegations of a "whitewash".
Dr Peter Ben Embarek said identifying the origins of the virus remains a "work in progress" – and admitted the team had uncovered new information but had not dramatically changed the picture of the outbreak.
The virus was first identified after a patient contracted it at the Huanan Seafood Market some 406 days ago, with the WHO probe even revealing this location as the virus's ground zero is now in doubt.
The conclusions from the report also seemed to conviently match up with many of the previously considered spurious claims made by China over the past year as it attempted to shift the blame for Covid.
So with the world no closer to answers on the origins of the virus which has killed 2.3million people – just where on Earth did Covid come from?
WHO endorsed the Chinese theory that the original Covid outbreak last December could have been triggered by a virus carried on frozen food.
China has previously claimed the virus has been found hiding in frozen goods from Ecuador, Brazil and Australia.
It has used the suggestion to try and deflect attention from its own handling of the pandemic – with accusations its failures allowed the virus to spread worldwide.
WHO had just weeks ago cast doubt over this claim, which has been peddled for much of the last year by the Communist Party.
Dr Ben Embarek just days ago questioned the suggestion, but today endorsed it and called for further investigations as he appeared with his Chinese counterpart in Wuhan.
"It seems to be extremely rare, and that being the source of the infection seems to be extremely rare," he said on January 31, reported the Wall Street Journal.
"Transposing that onto last year in Wuhan when the virus is not widely circulating in the world and thinking that could be the introduction is not the most likely scenario."
Huanan Seafood Market was for a long time considered the prime suspect in how the virus may have made the zoonotic jump from animals to humans.
The first cluster of virus cases was detected there, and wet markets are known to be a hive of possible infections – leading to calls for them to be banned.
And shortly after the spread of the disease, officials in China imposed a nationwide ban on the buying and selling of wild animals in markets, restaurants and other retail places.
Cramped and unsanitary conditions with numerous species jammed together is believed to fuel the rapid mutation of viruses as they jump from animal-to-animal before finally infecting humans.
WHO have again have turned the theory on its head as today the briefing suggested the Huanan Seafood Market may not be Covid's ground zero.
Professor Liang Wennian, the leader of the Chinese team, ruled out the market as an origin source as he suggested Covid come from somewhere else other than Wuhan.
The experts added that they "don't know" the exact role of Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the origin of the virus as officials also found early Covid cases among people who had no ties to the market.
Foreign bats are also being probed as possible origin of Covid as Professor Liang said no bats in the wild in China had been found to be carrying viruses that may have mutated into Covid-19.
The team believe the virus originated in animals – likely bats or pangolins – but the intermediate hosts that allowed it to jump to humans are "yet to be identified".
Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist on the team, said that some animals at the market were susceptible or suspected to be susceptible to the virus, including rabbits and bamboo rats.
And some could be traced to farms or traders in regions that are home to the bats that carry the closest related virus to the one that causes Covid-19.
Hours after the press conference it was announced scientists have discovered a virus that is a close match for Covid has been found in a wildlife sanctuary in Thailand.
It was suggested the virus may be present in horseshoe bats covering an area of Asia some 2,983 miles, the study said in Nature Communications.
Wuhan is home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the highest security lab of its kind in China, which was studying bat borne coronaviruses at the time of the pandemic.
The lab has been placed under a microscope with allegations from the US that it was implicated in the origins of the pandemic.
WHO has today totally dismissed the lab leak theory as being "extremely unlikely" and not worth further research.
The team visited the Wuhan lab last week to meet with scientists, and one of the members of group – Dr Peter Daszak – has a close relationship with WIV.
Dr Ben Embarek said: "The findings suggest lab incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population."
It was the only hypothesis that was outright dismissed by the WHO team, with them saying no labs were known to be studying the virus and they were satisfied with the safety procedures at WIV.
The refusal to further probe the lab have fuelled allegations of a whitewash as WHO continues to face scrutiny as its accused of being "China-centric".
WHO believes Covid emerged from a zoonotic spillover event when humans contracted the virus from an animal.
But the key is now finding this mystery event and how it happened – especially if it is suspected to have occurred somewhere other than Wuhan.
Unpublished data suggests samples of SARS-CoV-2 were found before the first reported cases in Wuhan.
The team also admitted the virus could have been circulating in other regions of China "several weeks" before it was identified after an outbreak at the wet market in Wuhan.
Investigators are looking for Chinese blood samples that could indicate an earlier circulation of the virus.
Professor Liang said there was "no indication" the sickness was circulating in Wuhan before December 2019 when the first official cases were recorded.
Despite offering further explanations, the WHO team admitted they have failed to identify the original source of the Covid outbreak.
Tobias Ellwood MP, chair of Defence committee, told The Sun Online: "This is a complete whitewash.
"Given the global economic devastation and death toll this pandemic has caused – never again should a country responsible for an outbreak be allowed to hinder an international investigation for a full 12 months."
The Communist Party-regime has long been accused of covering up the pandemic's origins – and has been continuing to attempt to deflect blame.
WHO's visit has been subject to controversy as the team were initially barred from entry to China – an incident which Communist authorities dubbed a "misunderstanding".
Documents already revealed Beijing downplayed the bug to "protect its image", and there have been repeated allegations that China has manipulated its death and case figures.
China has since mostly returned to normal – not recording any sigicnant Covid outbreaks since last March.
It has a total of 89,720 cases and 4,636 deaths, just a fraction of those recorded in Western nations, and was the only economy to actually grow in 2020 amid global financial turmoil.
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