“PR Win” for China in WHO Investigation

Members of the WHO team investigating the origins of COVID-19 arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, Feb. 3, 2021.  Image: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty
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Members of the WHO team investigating the origins of COVID-19 arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, Feb. 3, 2021. Image: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty

COVID-19 likely crossed over to humans from an animal, WHO investigators said Tuesday at a news briefing in China, shooting down the theory that the virus could have leaked from a Wuhan lab, the AP reports.

Mission Wrap Up: Team leader Peter Ben Embarek said such a leak was “so improbable that it will not be suggested as an avenue of future study.” Another investigator, Danish scientist Thea Kølsen Fischer said the possibility of “further investigation and new leads” couldn’t be ruled out.

Open Debate: Some investigators praised China’s openness during the mission, but Kølsen Fischer noted that they were not allowed to see raw data, only an analysis presented by their hosts.

The team said that more research is needed to pinpoint the animal source,according to Reuters. It also entertained a scenario that has gained little traction with scientists outside China”: COVID-19 could have spread to China via imported frozen food.

Big Win: The WHO team’s mission was a “public relations win” for China,according to The New York Times, while the findings do little to reassure those who have questioned China’s transparency.

The Quote: “This is the most authoritative support that China has received in terms of its official narrative,” said the Council on Foreign Relations’ Yanzhong Huang, adding that 1 visit limited by the Chinese government is not enough time for a thorough investigation.

  

Related: US will not accept World Health Organization findings out of Wuhan without independently verifying – South China Morning Post

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