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WHO to investigate the animal origins of the novel coronavirus

On Friday, WHO said that international experts had held their first meeting, albeit virtually, with their Chinese counterparts in order to investigate the animal origins of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press briefing Friday that the UN agency was continuing to establish the origins of the virus to prevent future outbreaks.

He said: “Today, a group of international experts had their first virtual meeting with their Chinese counterparts.”

Scientists believe the killer virus jumped from animals to humans, possibly from a market in the city of Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.

It is widely assumed that the virus originally came from bats, but the intermediate animal host that transmitted it between bats and humans remains unknown.

When asked why the first meeting between the experts had not been face-to-face, WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan stressed Friday that it was certainly always part of the plan that the teams would meet virtually first.

He said the teams needed to first review all the studies already done so that the trip, the mission ultimately will address the issues which are the gaps in knowledge.

He cautioned though that such investigations are highly complex and can take a very long time.

He said: “I cast my mind back to MERS and SARS and other diseases, which have taken months and sometimes years to establish animal origins, and sometimes years to get fully fledged investigations carried out on the ground.”

The WHO has faced harsh criticism for not moving quickly enough with the probe, especially from the administration of US President Donald Trump, which has accused the agency of kowtowing to China.

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