WHO team in Wuhan

Last May we devoted most of our SEI Reports to Covid-19, focusing on the etiology of the pandemic, but we haven't said anything since. We do continue to follow the story very closely, however. The most important recent news is a visit by a WHO team to Wuhan, China, and the team's efforts to determine how and when the virus passed to humans.

The most striking news from their report is that they consider it "extremely unlikely" that the virus was released due to an accident at the Wuhan Institute for Virology, as was alleged by Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo and others last year. The team goes so far as to say that "it isn't an hypothesis we suggest implies further study." They note that "there had been no publication or research of this virus or one close to this virus anywhere in the world.” They also interviewed employees and examined the safety audit processes when they visited the lab, and say that “it’s very unlikely that anything could escape from that place."

That said, they also noted that the virus was not evident in the Wuhan area prior to December, 2019, and the precise means of transmission is still not known. The team holds out the possibility that frozen food products sold in the Huanan seafood market where the virus was first detected may have contained the virus, and those products could have come from outside of China. How likely this is is not clear.


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