February 03, 2021
Journalists and security personnel gather near the entrance of the Wuhan Institute of Virology after a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
By VOA News
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) international team of investigators Wednesday visited a virology laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a research center that has been the subject of speculation about the origin of COVID-19.
The team spent about three-and-a-half hours at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. When asked by reporters if they found anything, one off the researchers called from her car as it sped away, “Very interesting. Many questions.”
The institute is the subject of conspiracy theories that speculate a laboratory leak caused the city’s first coronavirus outbreak in the city. Most scientists reject the hypothesis, but some speculate that a virus captured from the wild could have figured into experiments at the lab to test the risks to humans, and then escaped.
Scientists called for the lab to release details of all coronavirus samples studied there to investigate those theories.
The lab visit came on day six of the mission to explore the origins of the virus that first appeared in the central China city at the end of the 2019 and has since killed more than 2.2 million people worldwide.
WHO officials, including members of the team, have tried to manage expectations for the mission and have played down the chances of finding any definitive answers on this trip, including how the virus jumped from animals to humans.
But in an interview Tuesday, with Britain’s Sky News, team member and disease ecology expert Peter Daszak said the investigators have seen data that has not been seen before and the team is “really getting somewhere” in their effort to find the source of the virus.
He said, “We will, at the end of this mission, produce a report, which will have some indications of what you know, what the most likely scenarios are, and also some suggestions and really strong indications of what work needs to be done in the next few weeks and months to really get a grip of that.”