Covid origins ‘may never be revealed’: Top Chinese scientist

London: The origins of the deadly Covid virus, which infected over 763 million and claimed more than 6.9 million lives globally, may never be revealed, a top Chinese scientist said on Friday.

The debate on how the Covid pandemic started has become “too sensitive and politicised”, said Dr George Fu Gao, former director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the Rhodes Policy Summit in London.

He also refuted the recent study that showed Covid origin may be linked to raccoon dogs at the infamous Wuhan wet market.

Gao said there is “no evidence” to show that the virus emerged from animals, Daily Mail reported.

Gao, who directed the Chinese CDC when Covid first emerged in Wuhan, and stepped down in July 2022, said he did not see “anything unusual” until December 2019, a month before coronavirus was officially confirmed.

“Even now, people think some animals are the host or reservoir,” Daily Mail quoted Gao as saying.

“Cut a long story short, there is no evidence which animals (were) where the virus comes (from).”

He was referring to the study, published in March, which showed that large amounts of genetic material gathered from the Wuhan wet market were a match for the raccoon dog.

The study, led by experts including from Universities of Arizona, Utah and Sydney and from the Scripps Research Institute, supported the hypothesis that the pandemic had an animal origin and not lab leak.

Reverting to the study, in a paper, published recently in the journal Nature, Gao and his team supported the study noting that the data provide “convincing evidence” that SARS-CoV-2 was spreading widely at Wuhan’s Huanan seafood market in January 2020.

However, they added it is not clear how Covid got there. They argued that it could have been from an animal, or it could also have been “introduced by a human or cold chain product”, The Telegraph reported.

“I too thought there must be an intermediate host – a reservoir – but now I’m not so sure. It’s possible there is no animal reservoir,” the newspaper quoted Gao as saying.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) slammed China once again, saying the country should have shared viral samples from Wuhan which was the epicentre of the pandemic immediately, not three years later.

“These should have been shared immediately, not three years later. The lack of data disclosure is simply inexcusable,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for Covid-19 response at WHO, said.

The WHO continues to call on China and all countries to share any data on the origins of SARS-CoV-2 immediately.

“China has advanced technical capabilities and I, therefore, believe that more data exist that have yet to be shared — on the wild and farmed animal trade; the testing of humans and animals in Wuhan and across China; the operations of labs in Wuhan working on coronaviruses; the earliest potential cases; and more,” Van Kerkhove wrote.


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