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Chinese expert says COVID-19 origin research excludes lab leak, denies conflicts within WHO-China team

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-03-20 17:08
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BEIJING -- Future work on identifying the origins of the novel coronavirus will rule out the hypothesis that it leaked from a Chinese lab unless new evidence emerges, the Chinese lead of the joint World Health Organization (WHO)-China investigation has said, while denying there have been disagreements between Chinese and foreign experts, South China Morning Post said in an article.

"The experts' team agreed unanimously that it is extremely unlikely that the virus leaked from the lab. So future virus origin-tracing missions will no longer be focused on this area, unless there is new evidence," Liang Wannian, a former senior National Health Commission official, said in a recent interview with Chinese daily Global Times, according to the article published on Thursday.

The WHO-China joint expert team reached an important consensus that the virus is of natural origin -- the most likely transmission route was from a natural host to an intermediate host, and then to humans -- though further research is still needed.

The agreement came after the experts had "candid, deep communication" with their colleagues at the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other institutes and bio-safety labs.

Liang's remarks followed the WHO's announcement on Tuesday that the team's final report, expected this week, had been postponed because it was "not ready."

Noting the experts from 10 countries all adhere to "scientific principles and an open spirit," he said as for the hyping of the so-called "conflicts," his foreign colleagues have made clear that they do not feel that way at all.

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