China bat caves need exploring in search for COVID-19 origins, WHO team member says

WUHAN: A member of the World Health Organization-led team looking out for clues to the origins of COVID-19 in the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan mentioned work was wanted to attempt to hint genetic parts of the virus in bat caves.

Peter Daszak, a zoologist and animal illness skilled, mentioned the team in Wuhan had been receiving new information about how the virus, first recognized in the town in late 2019, led to a pandemic. He didn’t elaborate, however mentioned there was no proof to recommend it emerged from a lab.

The origin of the coronavirus has develop into extremely politicised following accusations, particularly by the United States, that China was not clear in its early dealing with of the outbreak. Beijing has pushed the concept the virus originated elsewhere.

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Daszak was concerned in analysis into the origins of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) from 2002 to 2003, tracing its roots to bats residing in a cave in south-west Yunnan province.

“Similar research needs to be done if we are going to find the true wildlife origin” of COVID-19, mentioned Daszak, president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance.

“That sort of work to find the likely bat source is important because if you can find the sources of these lethal viruses, you can reduce the contact with those animals,” he advised Reuters in an interview.

It is unclear whether or not China is at present sampling its many bat caves, however viruses much like SARS-CoV-2 had beforehand been discovered in the south-west province of Yunnan.

He mentioned the team in Wuhan had been receiving new information about how the virus led to a pandemic, however didn’t elaborate.

“I’m seeing a picture coming through of some of the scenarios looking more plausible than before,” he mentioned.

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One state of affairs being scrutinised extra carefully by the team is the likelihood that the virus may have been circulating lengthy earlier than it was first recognized in Wuhan.

“That’s something our group is looking at very intensely to see what level of community transmission could have been happening earlier,” Daszak mentioned.

“The real work we are doing here is to trace back from the first cases back to an animal reservoir, and that’s a much more convoluted path, and may have happened over a number of months or even years.”

The investigators have visited hospitals, analysis services and the seafood market the place the primary outbreak was recognized, though their contacts in Wuhan are restricted to visits organised by their Chinese hosts.

Daszak mentioned Chinese authorities had not refused any of the team’s requests to go to services or meet with key figures.

“It is of course impossible to know what you are not being told, but what I am seeing in China, and what this group is seeing in China, is that what we asked for, we are being allowed to do,” Daszak mentioned.

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