WHO team visits Wuhan research lab
World Health Organization investigators, on Wednesday, visited a research center in the Chinese city of Wuhan that has been the subject of speculation about the origins of the coronavirus. The WHO team's visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a highlight of its mission to gather data and search for clues as to where the virus originated and what lead to its spread.
Speculation about WIV's role in the COVID-19 outbreak
Wuhan Institute of Virology, one of China's top virus research laboratories, built an archive of genetic information about bat coronaviruses after the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. This may have lead to the original outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan in late 2019.
China has rejected any claims of virus' origin in Wuhan
However, China has strongly denied all accusations and promoted theories that the virus may have originated elsewhere or brought into the country from overseas with imports of frozen seafood, a notion roundly rejected by international scientists. The institute's Deputy Director, Shi Zhengli, debunked theories espoused by the former Trump administration that the virus is either a bio-weapon or a lab leak from the institute.
China seeks to retain control over information to avoid blame
The WHO team has visited hospitals, research institutes, and a traditional wet market linked to many of the first cases. Their visit followed months of negotiations as China seeks to retain tight control over information to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response.
It will take years to pinpoint the origin of COVID-19
Confirmation of the origins of the virus will take years. Pinning down an outbreak's animal reservoir requires exhaustive research, including genetic analysis and epidemiological studies. One possibility is that a wildlife poacher passed the virus to traders who carried it to Wuhan. The first clusters of COVID-19 were detected in Wuhan in late 2019, putting the city of 1.1 crore under a 76-day lockdown.
Coronavirus cases continue to fall in China
Since 2019, China has reported more than 89,000 cases and 4,600 deaths, with new cases largely concentrated in its frigid northeast. Local lockdowns and travel restrictions are being imposed to contain the outbreak. New cases of local transmission continue to fall with just 15 reported on Wednesday as Chinese heed government calls not to travel for the Lunar New Year holiday later this month.