News ID: 279792
Published: 1204 GMT January 23, 2021

Too early to draw COVID origin conclusions: WHO

Too early to draw COVID origin conclusions: WHO

The World Health Organization said it was too early to draw any conclusions from its mission to Wuhan as to whether the COVID-19 pandemic started in China.

A team of WHO experts arrived in Wuhan on January 14 to start probing the origins of the deadly coronavirus, more than a year after the first cases were detected in the central Chinese city, AFP reported.

They were whisked to a hotel to complete a two-week quarantine.

China is braced for the scrutiny the expert team of WHO scientists will bring to its virus narrative. Beijing has drip-fed the idea that the pandemic started outside of its borders.

"All hypotheses are on the table. And it is definitely too early to come to a conclusion of exactly where this virus started, either within or without China," said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan.

"There are different... scientific observations in different parts of the world... all of that is very important, because it builds up a picture," he told a press conference in Geneva.

However, he added: "This is a big jigsaw puzzle and you cannot tell what the image says by looking at one piece in a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle."

The virus has killed more than two million people so far, infected tens of millions of others and hammered the global economy.

The WHO said establishing the pathway of the virus from animals to humans is essential to preventing future outbreaks.

It said the probe should rightly start where the first cases were discovered, and follow the trail of clues from there.

"Let's step back, let’s follow the evidence, let's follow the science. Our team are on the ground, they are having a good experience working with our Chinese colleagues. We are working through the data," said Ryan.

"The data will lead us to the next phase of where we have to go next to look at the origins of this virus.

"It is too early to come to any conclusion, but we believe we are making some progress and we hope to continue to do so in the interest of public health in the future."

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