WHO concludes investigation of COVID-19 origin in China, dismisses lab leak theory

The WHO team has dismissed the theory of a ‘lab leak’ of the virus and concluded that it most probably got transmitted to humans via an intermediary species.

WHO team dismisses lab leak theory
WHO team dismisses lab leak theory

After a 12-day visit to Wuhan in China to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 virus, the team of the World Health Organisation on February 9, 2021, dismissed the theory of a ‘lab leak’ of the virus and concluded that it most probably got transmitted to humans via an intermediary species.

Head of the WHO-led team, Dr. Peter Ben Embarek informed about the assessment and mentioned that the initial findings suggest that the interaction to humans through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway. It will now require more studies and more specific targeted research.

As the World Health Organisation team has been wrapping up their long visit to Wuhan, the investigation has for sure uncovered new information but still has not changed the picture of the outbreak.

What were the four key hypotheses for the origin of virus?

The four key hypotheses given by the WHO team regarding the origin and transmission of virus were:

Direct Zoonotic Spillover

Introduction of the virus through intermediary host species

Food chain, frozen food products, surface transmission

A Laboratory related incident

Dismissing the lab leak theory:

Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the Danish WHO food safety expert who led the international team clearly stated that his team will not suggest further investigation into the theory that the COVID-19 virus accidentally leaked from the labs conducting the research on Coronavirus.

He added that the team came on the judgment after a long, frank, open discussion with the management and the researchers at the institutions including the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The findings by the team suggest that the hypothesis of laboratory incident is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population.

What does the investigation suggest?

The global health body while further informing about their investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 virus stated that there is no evidence of the circulation of Coronavirus in any animal species in China.

Dr. Embarek further mentioned that it has not been possible to pinpoint any animal species that was a potential reservoir for this disease. The outcomes indicate that currently as well as back in 2019, it did not look like that there has been a circulation of the virus in any animal species in the country.

He added that the work of identifying the origin of the virus points to a natural reservoir in bats, but it is highly unlikely that they were in Wuhan, the central city of China from where the outbreak was discovered in late 2019.

The investigation, at last, suggests that the most likely pathway is the interaction with humans through an intermediary host. The study will further require more specific targeted research.


The investigation by the WHO lead team undertook in China after a cluster of patients showing pneumonia-like symptoms had emerged in Wuhan in December 2019.

A Coronavirus was identified which was causing the disease, which was later known as COVID-19 triggering the global pandemic and infecting over 90 million people and killing more than 1.9 million.

After the virus outbreak, the then US President Donald Trump had blamed China for the pandemic by calling the Coronavirus ‘Chinese Virus’.

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