WUHAN, China — A World Health Organization expert says the coronavirus is unlikely to have leaked from a Chinese lab and is more likely to have jumped to humans from an animal.
WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek made the assessment at the end of a visit by a WHO team that is investigating the possible origins of the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
“Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research,” Embarek said at a news conference Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Embarek later added that their initial findings "suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population.”
The first cases of the virus were discovered in the city in December 2019.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has collected extensive virus samples, leading to allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has strongly rejected that possibility.
The WHO arrived in China on Jan. 14, and spent the first two weeks of their visit working during a mandatory quarantine period. Previous reporting by the AP shows that the Chinese government has attempted to put limits on the team's research, and they blocked the team from speaking to reporters.
However, Peter Dasza, a member of the WHO team originally born in the U.K., told the AP that the team "enjoyed a greater level of openness than they had anticipated, and that they were granted full access to all sites and personnel they requested."