February 9, 2021.
WHO-China joint study press conference in Wuhan, in central China's
On March 12, the Chinese Ministry
of Foreign Affairs held a briefing to European envoys on the joint
scientific research on the origins of the novel coronavirus conducted
by China and the World Health Organization (WHO). The briefing
was chaired by Director-General of the Department of International
Organizations and Conferences of the Foreign Ministry Yang Tao. Team
leader from the Chinese side of the China-WHO joint expert team.
Professor Liang Wannian provided relevant information about the study
and answered questions. Over 40 European envoys and diplomats from 29
European countries and the European Union attended the briefing.
provided detailed information about the background, process, findings
and suggestions about future research of the China-WHO joint expert
team. He said that after relevant resolutions were approved at the 73rd
World Health Assembly, China overcame the pressure of epidemic
prevention and control within its borders and took the lead to carry
out a joint study on the origins of the novel coronavirus with the WHO.
In July 2020, China invited WHO experts to come to China and both sides
agreed on the WHO-convened Global Study of the Origins of SARS-CoV-2:
Terms of References for the China Part. According to the agreed terms
of references (ToR), China set up a joint expert team with
international experts from the WHO, and conducted a 28-day joint study
from January 14 to February 10 this year in Wuhan.
the visit in Wuhan, experts from both sides visited nine places,
including Jinyintan Hospital, Huanan Seafood Market, and the Wuhan
Institute of Virology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The team
also visited and talked with local medical workers, lab researchers,
scientists, market managers, business owners, community workers,
recovered patients, and families of medical workers who lost their
lives in the epidemic. A number of meetings, consultations and
discussions were held to accumulate scientific consensus on the origins
of the novel coronavirus and sound working relations were built between
experts of both sides through in-depth and candid exchanges.
Wannian said that the joint study has achieved positive outcomes and
reached some findings and conclusions, thanks to efforts from the two
sides. First, coronaviruses with high similarity to SARS-CoV-2 in gene
sequences in bats and pangolins were found by the joint expert team.
But the similarity is still not enough to make it a direct ancestor of
SARS-CoV-2. Other species all could be potential natural hosts. Second,
the first case in Wuhan got sick on December 8, 2019. The Huanan
Seafood Market could be an outbreak site and amplifier of the COVID-19
pandemic. Third, environmental sampling in the Huanan Seafood Market
from right at the point of its closing revealed widespread
contamination of surfaces with the virus, especially in its aquatic
product stalls. The coronavirus at the market might have been
introduced through infected people or contaminated cold-chain products,
animals, and animal products.
assessment, the joint expert team believes the SARS-CoV-2 virus is
"most likely" to have been introduced through an intermediary host
species, "likely" to have been introduced through direct transmission
or cold-chain food, and "extremely unlikely" to have been introduced
through a laboratory incident.
pointed out that the joint expert team has put forward four suggestions
in terms of future study. First, expand globally unified database,
including molecule, gene sequence, clinic, epidemiology, animal
monitoring and environmental monitoring data. Second, continue to look
for more possible early cases in a wider range around the globe. Third,
scientists around the world should search animal species that may
become virus hosts in many countries and places, not limited to bats.
Fourth, further understand the role of cold chain and frozen food in
For the full Joint China-WHO
Press Conference of WHO-Convened Global Study of Origins of SARS-Cov-2
This article was published in
Volume 51 Number 8 - March 21, 2021