Wuhan (China), Feb 9: The coronavirus is unlikely to have leaked from a Chinese lab and is more likely to have jumped to humans from an animal, a World Health Organisation expert said on Tuesday.
WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek made the assessment at the end of a visit to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where a team of scientists is investigating the possible origins of the coronavirus. The first cases were discovered in the city in December 2019.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has collected extensive virus samples, leading to allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has strongly rejected that possibility and has promoted other theories that the virus may have originated elsewhere. The team is considering several theories for how the disease first ended up in humans.
Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific, targeted research, Embarek said.
However, the findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population, Embarek said.
The WHO team draws on experts from 10 countries. Its mission is intended to be an initial step delving into the origins of the virus, which is believed to have originated in bats before being passed to humans through another species of wild animal, such as a pangolin or bamboo rat, which is considered an exotic delicacy by some in China.
Transmission through the trade in frozen products was also a likely possibility, Embarek said.
Another member of the WHO team told The Associated Press late last week that they enjoyed a greater level of openness than they had anticipated, and that they were granted full access to all sites and personnel they requested.
That expert, British-born zoologist Peter Daszak, said the team looked into issues including what the first cases were, the link with animals and what, if any, the role that imports of frozen food may have played -- a theory that China has long put forward.
The visit by the WHO team took months to negotiate after China only agreed to it amid massive international pressure at the World Health Assembly meeting last May, and Beijing has continued to resist calls for a strictly independent investigation.
Chinese authorities have kept a tight hold on information about the possible causes of the pandemic that has now killed more than 2.3 million worldwide.
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Cooch Behar (WB), May 13: West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was on Thursday shown black flags at Sitalkuchi, where four villagers died after firing by central forces during the elections, while "go back" slogans were raised at Dinhata during his visit to Cooch Behar district to meet people allegedly affected in post poll violence.
Earlier in the day, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar who is on a controversial visit to assess post-poll violence in the district said he was shocked by incidents of attacks following the West Bengal assembly elections.
"The country is facing a COVID crisis, and West Bengal is facing twin challenges of the pandemic and unprecedented post-poll violence only (as) some people decided to vote as per their own choice," he said.
The run up to the visit was marked by a war of words between the Governor and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with the chief minister writing a letter on Wednesday claiming the visit violated established norms as it was being undertaken unilaterally without consultations with the state government.
She also claimed the Governor was by-passing the state council of ministers and dictating directly to state officials, which was violative of the constitution.
An agitated Dhankhar came out of his car at Dinhata and reprimanded police officials for allegedly not acting to prevent slogan-shouting protesters, who numbered around 15 and had assembled with posters saying "BJP's governor go back".
"I am shocked, this is total collapse of rule of law, I could never imagine such a thing could happen," he told reporters.
Police officials chased the protesters away from the spot.
"I have seen fear in the eyes of people and they are afraid to go to the police station to file complaints," Dhankhar said about his interaction with people in post-poll hit villages.
The Governor visited Mathabhanga, Sitalkuchi, Sitai and Dinhata and talked to people who claimed to have suffered attacks at the hands of ruling Trinamool Congress supporters after election results were announced on May 2.
Dhankhar, who visited several households at the four places, said "homes have been looted and even ornaments kept for girl's marriage, utensils and other items for 'shradh' were taken away."
The governor was also shown black flags by some persons at Golokganj when his convoy travelled from Mathabhanga to Sitalkuchi, as a posse of policemen put up human walls to prevent protesters from coming down on to the road.
Posters and placards criticising the visit of the governor were also seen at Jorpatki in Sitalkuchi, the scene of firing by central armed police force personnel that killed four persons on April 10 during the fourth phase of polling in the West Bengal assembly elections.
"History will judge Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister. History will also judge Jagdeep Dhankhar, the governor, and it will judge the bureaucracy and the media," Dhankar said, interacting with the media.
Claiming that he did not get any response from the state government despite efforts being made to get information about the post-poll violence, Dhankhar said the state government must provide him with required information under Article 167 of the Constitution.
The Governor pointed out that "during elections, she (the chief minister) had publicly said the central armed police force will not be there always and she will see after that.
"This kind of challenge and behaviour is not acceptable under the constitution," he added.
BJP MP Nisith Pramanik accompanied the governor during his visit to the areas, where the saffron party has alleged loot and attack on its workers.
Some women wailed and fell to the feet of the governor claiming that all their belongings were looted and that the men of their families had fled their homes to escape attacks.
Reacting to the visit, veteran TMC MP and party spokesperson Sougata Ray said "He (Dhankhar) did not listen to the state government and went to Cooch Behar. He went there in the company of a BJP leader. His conduct is unconstitutional".
"Previously we had written a letter to the president against this governor. If the CM says, we will send another letter against him to the president," Ray said.
The TMC in December last year had written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking to remove Jagdeep Dhankhar from the post of governor, accusing him of "transgressing constitutional limits" by regularly commenting against the state administration in public.
Terming the Governors conduct as unbecoming, senior TMC leader and minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay added "the governor is doing politics over stray post-poll incidents, (to contain) which the state government has taken all necessary steps. He is doing politics when the state is busy fighting the pandemic. We wish that the governor and the state government work together to fight the Covid situation.
The governor said he will on Friday visit camps in Assam where BJP workers, who reportedly fled from West Bengal owing to the post-poll violence, have been staying.