Beijing: In a major development regarding the outbreak of COVID-19, a report has claimed that the transmission of the virus from bats to humans is through another animal.
“A joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is extremely unlikely,” the PTI news agency on Monday (March 29, 2021) said citing a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press.
The report is talking about the possible lab leak that the WHO-led team was probing in China’s Wuhan in January 2021. The lab is said to be the first place where a coronavirus case was confirmed in late 2019.
“The findings were largely as expected and left many questions unanswered. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis,” said PTI.
It also stated that the report’s release has been repeatedly delayed, raising questions about whether the Chinese were trying to skew the conclusions to prevent blame for the pandemic falling on China.
This comes three days after Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO expert who led the Wuhan mission, said that the report had been finalized and was being fact-checked and translated.
He said, “I expect that in the next few days, that whole process will be completed and we will be able to release it publicly.”
The PTI claimed that it received what appeared to be a near-final version from a Geneva-based diplomat from a WHO-member country.
“It wasn’t clear whether the report might still be changed prior to its release. The diplomat did not want to be identified because they were not authorised to release it ahead of publication,” the news agency said.
As per the report, the researchers listed four scenarios in order of likelihood and they concluded that transmission through a second animal was likely to very likely.
They also evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely and said that spread through ‘cold-chain’ food products was possible but not likely.
Subsequently, the closest relative of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in bats, which are known to carry coronaviruses.
However, the report also noted that the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link.
It said that highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, but also noted that mink and cats are susceptible to the COVID virus, which suggests they could be carriers.
(With inputs from agencies)