(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — The World Health Organization on Tuesday released a report aimed to identify the source of the COVID-19 breakout, ruling that the infectious virus came from bats, was transferred to another animal before making its way to humans.
The study claims it was “possible to likely” that the virus was a result of direct transmission from animals to humans, noting the likelihood of the pangolin being the intermediary host of the virus before passing it onto people.
The study also says it is “possible” the virus was introduced to humans via the frozen food chain.
It also called the COVID-19 outbreak the result of a laboratory accident “extremely unlikely.”
Despite the findings, the research has yet to find “ground zero” of the outbreak and dubbed the Hunan seafood market a “super spreader.”
The joint-study was conducted between January 14 and February 10 in Wuhan, China. The report also acknowledged that it is the first step in a years-long investigation.
Said WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end… We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do.”
However, the report is not without controversy, as 14 countries — including the United States — pointed out that the WHO team working on the report was “significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.”
Adds the opposition, “Scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.”
“Together, we support a transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence, of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the countries expressing skepticism about the study’s results maintained, “In this regard, we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China.”
As for how long it may take before an answer regarding COVID-19’s origins is found, researchers have pointed to the 2003 SARS outbreak. SARS, a close cousin of COVID-19, was traced back to a single population of horseshoe crab bats — a breakthrough that took over five years to discover.
COVID-19 has infected more than 128 million people globally, killing nearly three million. In the U.S., the total number of infections are closing in at 30.4 million and the death toll has surpassed 550,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.