Two experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are on an exploratory mission to China to determine the origin of the new coronavirus (Covid-19), the WHO said on Friday.
An epidemiologist and an animal health specialist are on their way and are expected to arrive in Beijing this weekend, according to WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris.
They are expected to set the stage for a broader WHO mission yet to come. The WHO team will meet with Chinese officials and determine which locations the mission will visit, Harris said.
“One of the big issues that everybody is interested in, and of course that’s why we’re sending an animal health expert, is to look at whether or not it jumped from species to a human and what species it jumped from,” she noted.
“We know it’s very, very similar to the virus in the bat, but did it go through an intermediate species? This is a question we all need answered.”
Researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in the city where the outbreak occurred in December 2019, have shown that the genome sequence of the new coronavirus is 80% similar to that of SARS, which caused a previous outbreak in 2002-2003, and 96% similar to that of a bat coronavirus.
The vast majority of researchers thus agree that Covid-19 probably originated in bats, but scientists believe that it passed through another species before being transmitted to humans.
There have been 11,874,226 cases of coronavirus around the world, and 545,581 have died as of 9 July, according to the WHO.
The Brussels Times