Covid-19 probably came to people through an animal and likely started spreading no more than a month or two before it was noticed in December of 2019, a World Health Organization draft report finds.
The least likely source: a laboratory leak, the WHO’s joint international team concluded.
WHO is scheduled to release the final report on its investigation into the origins of coronavirus on Tuesday, but a draft version of the information obtained by CNN shows there’s still no smoking gun and no evidence suggesting the virus was spreading any earlier than the very end of 2019.
The report gives four possible sources for the virus. The most likely scenario is via an intermediate animal host, possibly a wild animal captured and raised on a farm.
But the investigation has not found what other animal was infected by a bat — considered the most likely source of the virus — and then may have transmitted it to a human. “The possible intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2 remains elusive,” it reads.
Next likely is direct transmission from one of the animals known to carry a similar coronavirus, such as a bat or a pangolin. Possible but not probable is the message from frozen or chilled food, and least likely is an accidental laboratory release, the report finds.
Former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr Robert Redfield told CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta that his personal opinion was the virus was released from a lab.
The report says this is “extremely unlikely.” “There is no record of viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in any laboratory before December 2019, or genomes that in combination could provide a SARS-CoV-2 genome,” it reads. “Because of the above, a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely.”