WHO team visits Wuhan animal facility for clues on virus’s origins

Feb 03 , 2021. 13 hours ago – 20:54 KYODO NEWS

Members of the World Health Organization’s team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic inspect the Hubei animal epidemic disease prevention and control center in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

WUHAN , China – A team from the World Health Organization on Tuesday visited a provincial animal health facility in the central Chinese city of Wuhan as part of efforts to identify the origins of the novel coronavirus.

The WHO team, consisting of 10 experts, stayed at the facility for around three hours while wearing protective suits, as animals are suspected of having initially transmitted the virus to humans.

One of the members said in a Twitter post that the WHO group met with “key staff in charge of livestock surveillance” and had “in-depth discussions” with them.

The WHO team has been attempting to clarify the process of how bats, believed to be the main natural host of the virus, passed it to other animals, sources close to the matter said.

On Sunday, the WHO experts conducted a one-hour investigation into a Wuhan market, at which many people were confirmed to have contracted the virus in the early days of the outbreak in late 2019.

The Wuhan market, where wild animals such as bats and snakes had been traded alongside seafood, has been closed since January 2020 and was apparently sanitized thoroughly by Chinese authorities.

Later this week, the experts are also expected to visit a research laboratory in the city, as it is rumored that the virus may have been accidentally released from there.

Last year, then U.S. President Donald Trump said he was confident the virus had originated from the infectious diseases lab and threatened to punish China for what he perceived as its lackluster response that allowed it to spread worldwide.

After quarantining for two weeks, the WHO experts began a full-fledged probe in late January. They are likely to complete the investigation in Wuhan by the Feb. 11 start of the weeklong Lunar New Year holidays, the sources said.