The head of the expert group on the coronavirus outbreak at China’s National Health Commission, Liang Wannian, says the discovery of viral sequence of coronavirus suggests the virus originated from zoonotic transmission, but the host is yet to be identified.
A team from the World Health Organisation, searching for clues about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, spent nearly a month in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the disease was first identified.
The team visited key sites, including the Huanan seafood market as well as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been involved in coronavirus research.
SABC Foreign Editor, Sophie Mokoena reports that the WHO team was in Wuhan for four weeks:
At the end of January, the team of experts investigating the origins of COVID-19 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan visited a wholesale seafood centre where the new coronavirus was initially detected.
Public access to the market, now barricaded with guards on round-the-clock duty, has been severely restricted since it was shut at the beginning of last year.
Before its closure, it was a bustling market comprising hundreds of stalls divided into sections for meat, seafood, and vegetables.
Some Chinese diplomats and state media have said they believe the market is not the origin, and have thrown support behind theories that the virus potentially originated in another country.
On December 31, 2019, after four cases of mystery pneumonia were linked to the market, it was shuttered overnight. By the end of January, Wuhan had gone into a 76-day lockdown.
Experts say the Huanan market still plays a role in tracing the origins of the virus since the first cluster of cases was identified there.
The WHO-led probe in Wuhan has been plagued by delays, concern over access, and bickering between China and the United States, which accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.
The team had been set to arrive in Wuhan earlier in January, and China’s delay of their visit drew rare public criticism from the head of the WHO, which former US President Donald Trump accused of being “China-centric”.
In the video below, SABC Correspondent Patrick Fok travelled to Wuhan a year on since the coronavirus emerged:
–Additional reporting by Reuters.