WHO defends investigation into the accident theory at the origin of covid-19
This stance denotes a possible revision of the UN agency’s initial assessment of the origins of the pandemic and comes after critics accused the WHO of having too quickly discarded, or underestimated, the theory that the virus may have originated at the Institute of Virology of Wuhan, the city in central China where the first cases of covid-19 were diagnosed, in late 2019.
The WHO concluded last year that that hypothesis was “extremely unlikely”. However, in a report released on Thursday, the WHO group of experts said “key data” was still missing to determine how the covid-19 pandemic began.
The scientists said they “will remain open to any and all scientific evidence that becomes available in the future to allow comprehensive testing of all reasonable hypotheses.”
And they noted that because laboratory accidents in the past have triggered some outbreaks, the laboratory theory, which has been highly politicized, cannot be ruled out.
Identifying the source of a disease can take years. It took more than a decade for scientists to identify the bat species that served as a natural reservoir for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus, detected in southern China in late 2002.
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