Thursday, March 4, 2021

WHO probe team visits high-security virus lab in Wuhan

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A team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) visited China’s most advanced virus research lab in Wuhan on Wednesday as part of their ongoing probe into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, reports from the central Chinese city said.

Scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) research on some of the deadliest pathogens found in the world including the bat-hosted coronavirus.

One theory – so far unproven and consistently rejected by China – says that the initial outbreak in Wuhan may have been triggered by an accidental virus leak from the bio-safety lab.

Questions also remain about a possible spillover – or a zoonotic event – where the virus could have jumped from an animal host to humans.

“I am looking forward to a very productive day, meeting the key people here and asking all the important questions that need to be asked,” team member Peter Daszak, who is the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, said from his car as it drove into the institute, a Reuters report from Wuhan said.

Peter Ben Embarek, a scientist leading the WHO team, told the tabloid Global Times that the international experts will meet Shi Zhengli, a leading Chinese virologist.

Shi has been dubbed as China’s “bat woman” because of her intensive research on bats and the viruses they host.

In a social media post on Tuesday, Daszak said the WHO experts met “with key staff in charge of livestock surveillance in Hubei Province”, and toured lab facilities and held in-depth discussions on Tuesday when the team visited an animal health facility.

On Sunday, the WHO team went to the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, which was linked to the first cases of Covid-19 in late 2019, described by Daszak in a tweet as a “critical” stop.

Meanwhile, China on Wednesday reported the fewest number of new Covid-19 cases for a single day in more than a month, the national health commission (NHC) said.

A total of 25 cases were reported in the mainland on February 2, the NHC said, of which 15 were locally transmitted infections.

The total number of Covid-19 cases reported in mainland China now stands at 89,619, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

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