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WHO says coronavirus ‘most likely came from bats’ after Wuhan scientist probe



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Officials from the World Health Organisation grilled scientists in Wuhan about the origins of the novel coronavirus as the body launched an investigation into the start of the pandemic.

WHO researchers have so far had “extensive discussions” and exchanges with scientists in the city where the outbreak was first detected, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

They concluded that the virus most likely came from bats and probably had another, intermediary animal “host”.

China shut down a wildlife market in Wuhan at the start of the outbreak, a day after discovering a number of patients were vendors or dealers.

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“The team had extensive discussions with Chinese counterparts and received updates on epidemiological studies, biologic and genetic analysis and animal health research,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters.

These included video discussions with Wuhan virologists and scientists, he said.

Wuhan lifts Coronavirus lockdown – In pictures

1/15

A medical worker from China’s Jilin Province, in red, embraces a colleague from Wuhan as she prepares to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport

AP

2/15

A pilot leans out of the cockpit window to wave goodbye before the China Eastern airlines flight, the first domestic flight from Wuhan that resumed service after travel restrictions to leave the capital of Hubei province and China’s epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak were lifted, takes off from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to Sanya

Reuters

3/15

A medical staff member from Jilin Province tears up during a ceremony before leaving as Tianhe Airport is reopened in Wuhan

AFP via Getty Images

4/15

Passengers wearing face masks and suits to protect against the spread of new coronavirus walk past a display screen at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport i

AP

5/15

A passenger wearing a face mask is seen in the counter at the Tianhe Airport after it was reopened today

AFP via Getty Images

6/15

People wearing protective clothing and masks arrive at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan

AFP via Getty Images

7/15

Travellers wearing protective gear ride an escalator at Wuchang Railway Station before travel restrictions to leave Wuhan

Reuters

8/15

Medical staff from Jilin Province (in red) hug nurses from Wuhan after working together during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak during a ceremony before leaving as Tianhe Airport is reopened in Wuhan

AFP via Getty Images

9/15

Medical workers from China’s Jilin Province react as they prepare to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport

AP

10/15

A man wearing protective gear gets through security check at Wuchang Railway Station before travel restrictions to leave Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and China’s epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak are lifted

Reuters

11/15

A woman wearing a face mask to protect against the spread of coronavirus puts a poncho on a child at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan

AP

12/15

Bullet trains at a station in preparation for resuming operations after authorities lifted a more than two-month ban on outbound travel, in Wuhan

AFP via Getty Images

13/15

People wait for the train at the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan as travel restrictions for leaving the city, the epicentre of a global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, are lifted and people will be allowed to leave the city via road, rail and air

Reuters

14/15

A train staff member stands on a high-speed train at Wuhan’s Hankou Railway Station

Reuters

15/15

People wait for the train at the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan as travel restrictions for leaving the city, the epicentre of a global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, are lifted and people will be allowed to leave the city via road, rail and air

Reuters

1/15

A medical worker from China’s Jilin Province, in red, embraces a colleague from Wuhan as she prepares to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport

AP

2/15

A pilot leans out of the cockpit window to wave goodbye before the China Eastern airlines flight, the first domestic flight from Wuhan that resumed service after travel restrictions to leave the capital of Hubei province and China’s epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak were lifted, takes off from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to Sanya

Reuters

3/15

A medical staff member from Jilin Province tears up during a ceremony before leaving as Tianhe Airport is reopened in Wuhan

AFP via Getty Images

4/15

Passengers wearing face masks and suits to protect against the spread of new coronavirus walk past a display screen at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport i

AP

5/15

A passenger wearing a face mask is seen in the counter at the Tianhe Airport after it was reopened today

AFP via Getty Images

6/15

People wearing protective clothing and masks arrive at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan

AFP via Getty Images

7/15

Travellers wearing protective gear ride an escalator at Wuchang Railway Station before travel restrictions to leave Wuhan

Reuters

8/15

Medical staff from Jilin Province (in red) hug nurses from Wuhan after working together during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak during a ceremony before leaving as Tianhe Airport is reopened in Wuhan

AFP via Getty Images

9/15

Medical workers from China’s Jilin Province react as they prepare to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport

AP

10/15

A man wearing protective gear gets through security check at Wuchang Railway Station before travel restrictions to leave Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and China’s epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak are lifted

Reuters

11/15

A woman wearing a face mask to protect against the spread of coronavirus puts a poncho on a child at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan

AP

12/15

Bullet trains at a station in preparation for resuming operations after authorities lifted a more than two-month ban on outbound travel, in Wuhan

AFP via Getty Images

13/15

People wait for the train at the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan as travel restrictions for leaving the city, the epicentre of a global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, are lifted and people will be allowed to leave the city via road, rail and air

Reuters

14/15

A train staff member stands on a high-speed train at Wuhan’s Hankou Railway Station

Reuters

15/15

People wait for the train at the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan as travel restrictions for leaving the city, the epicentre of a global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, are lifted and people will be allowed to leave the city via road, rail and air

Reuters

The World Health team, comprising specialists in animal health and epidemiology, will spend three weeks in China, laying the groundwork for a broader investigation into pandemic’s source.

Chinese and international experts are seeking to discover how the virus that causes Covid-19 jumped the species barrier from animals to humans.

Mr Lindmeier did not provide details on the timing or composition of the wider mission, which may not include American representatives after the US formally cut ties with the WHO.

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President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the pathogen may have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, although they have presented no evidence for this and China has denied it.

Scientists and US intelligence agencies have insisted it emerged naturally.

WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan said on Monday that surprises were possible.

“The fact that that fire alarm was triggered (in Wuhan) doesn’t necessarily mean that that is where the disease crossed from animals to human,” he said.

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