The agency’s repeated statement goes against the US President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated accusations that the virus was man-made in a Wuhan laboratory.
Sarajevo – The WHO emergencies chief, Michael Ryan, has reiterated the health agency’s stance that the novel coronavirus originated naturally.
Ryan evoked numerous scientists who “have looked at the [genetic] sequences,” concluding the natural origins of the virus in a public declaration on May 1.
The sequence of the virus, which virologists worldwide examined, reveals a spontaneous mutation in an animal host and then an animal-to-human transmission. Diseases that spread from animals to humans are “zoonotic.”
Scientists believe the virus emerged in China in late 2019, possibly in a “wet market” in Wuhan. “Wet markets” are commonplace in Asia as places where people can buy fresh produce, fish, and meat at affordable prices. The wet market in Wuhan also sold live wild animals.
The subsequent transmission to human hosts happened via “intermediate hosts.” In the case of SARS-CoV, the host was a civet, while for MERS-CoV, the transmission happened through a dromedary camel.
Scientists worldwide believe COVID-19 originated in bats, too, but have not yet identified the intermediate host.
The WHO explained the urgency to understand “how the animal-human species barrier was breached,” stressing the need to prevent another pandemic by putting public health measures in place.
Identifying the origins of COVID-19 is so crucial to the WHO that the UN health agency expressed its will to take part in investigations into the zoonotic origins of the pandemic in China. China is currently blocking the WHO from its national investigations.
Trump versus the WHO
The WHO’s repeated statement directly opposes Donald Trump’s narrative over the virus originating in a Chinese lab.
On April 30, a day before Ryan’s statement, Trump claimed he had a “high degree of confidence” the virus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The institute hosts the only Chinese laboratory with a biosafety level 4 where researchers study easily transmitted and fatal pathogens.
Trump declined to support his allegations with evidence. The US government’s own research concluded the virus was natural, but investigations into the institute continue, looking into the possibility of an accidental leak of the natural virus from the lab.
On April 15, Trump suspended US funding for the WHO, accusing the agency of mismanagement and a “China-centric” approach. The WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, continues to push back against Trump’s criticisms.