WHO: ‘Extremely unlikely’ that coronavirus escaped from Wuhan lab

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The novel coronavirus is unlikely to have escaped from a government lab in Wuhan, China, experts with the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday following an investigation into the virus’s origins. 

“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,” said Peter Ben Embarek, an expert with the WHO food safety and animal diseases division, according to The Associated Press. 

The Wuhan Institute of Virology became a target of unfounded theories that the virus had spread across the country after escaping from the facility. Chinese officials have denied those claims and promoted other unproven hypotheses for how the pandemic began. 

A team from the WHO arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 14 to investigate the lab in a bid to learn about how the virus may have been created and spread. 

“The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” Embarek said. 

WHO officials separately said their analysis about the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s role in the pandemic does not dramatically change the picture of the overall outbreak. 

Public health experts believe the most likely way the virus was created was via community spread after someone was exposed to the novel coronavirus after contact with an animal at a so-called wet market late in 2019. 

The coronavirus quickly spread across China and the world over the last year, killing more than 2.3 million people worldwide. 

President Biden’s administration has announced it intends to rejoin the World Health Organization after former President Trump pulled funding to the global alliance, claiming it was not tough enough on China. 

“This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health,” said Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus late last month. “The role of the United States, its role, global role is very, very crucial.”

— Updated at 7:46 a.m.

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