WHO and China joint study reports animals are likely COVID-19 source, lab leak 'extremely unlikely'

The report's methodology has drawn criticism from the U.S. including why Beijiing helped write the report.

Updated: March 29, 2021 - 12:45pm

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A study on the origins of COVID-19 conducted jointly by the World Health Organization and China concludes that the virus is most likely to have been transmitted from bats to another animal and then to humans, with China holding strong in their stance that a lab leak of the virus is "extremely unlikely," according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press

The release of the draft report, following a team of WHO-backed investigators visiting China earlier this year, lists four possible scenarios resulting in the virus emergence. 

The possibilities – in order of likelihood – include transmission from bats through another animal, which the authors said was likely to be very likely. They evaluated direct spread from bats to hcumans as likely, and said that spread to humans from the packaging of “cold-chain” food products was possible but not likely. 

The report states the virus having been release from a lab in Wuhan, the China city where the virus was first detected, is "extremely unlikely." 

The report is expected to be made public on Tuesday, but the repeated delay of the release has caused concerns of possible skewed results. The results are mainly based on the investigators' visit to Wuhan.

“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent CNN interview.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded to criticism of the report on Monday by asking whether the U.S. is attempting to "exert political pressure on the members of the WHO expert group" by speaking out against the report.

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