Peter Daszak (R), Thea Fischer (L) and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 coronavirus will meet on February 3 at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in central Chinese Hubei Province a 2021.

HECTOR RETAMAL | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – The origins of the coronavirus will most likely be known in the next few years, according to a key member of a World Health Organization investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

“I’m sure we’ll find out soon,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, member of the WHO-led team and specialist in animal diseases, on Wednesday during a webinar hosted by think tank Chatham House.

“In the next few years we will have really important data on where these came from and how they came about,” he added.

Daszak, who is also president of the New York-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, said it should be possible for collective scientific data to find out exactly how animals infected with the coronavirus first humans in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

He said the wildlife trade was the most likely explanation for how Covid got into China, and said that hypothesis had “strong support” from both the WHO and scientists in China.

“There was a link from Wuhan to the provinces in southern China, where the closest (Covid) bats are found in bats,” said Daszak, describing the discovery as “a really important clue.”

Daszak was one of three team members of the WHO-led team of international scientists who spoke during the webinar. He said a report outlining the first conclusions from the last month-long investigation could be released as early as next week.

“Isn’t it too late already?”

Over the four-week period through early February, investigators visited hospitals, laboratories and markets in the Chinese city of Wuhan, including the Huanan Seafood Market, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control laboratory.

At a press conference on Feb. 9, the WHO-led team said Covid was “most likely” from animals before it spread to humans and rejected a theory that the disease was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This hypothesis was upheld without any burden of proof by the administration of former President Donald Trump and was strictly denied by Chinese officials.

Dr. Marion Koopmans, a virologist at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said during the same webinar that it was “extremely unlikely” that a laboratory incident had occurred.

Koopmans said she was often asked, “Isn’t it too late already?” When looking for clues about the origins of the Covid pandemic.

“I think there are two answers to that. Of course, ideally, you would ideally do a full investigation right from the start. But it’s very understandable when you are in the middle of an explosive outbreak that is attracting attention, which.” happened in Wuhan, “said Koopmans.

“There are things that we learned over the past year that we didn’t know early on. I think we have a better idea of ​​what species to think about because of the various experimental studies and field observations. We you have a slightly better understanding for how these viruses are transmitted, the widespread events, and you can bring that knowledge back into the way you look at the information from the beginning. “

She added, “So this has advantages and disadvantages and it is certainly not a missed opportunity to look into it, even if it was a year after the start of, or what we believe, the start of the pandemic.”

Future pandemics

The origins of the coronavirus remain critical to global public health as it continues to evolve as it spreads, as demonstrated by highly infectious mutant strains identified in the UK and South Africa.

Scientists also say it is important to understand the origins of the Covid pandemic in order to be better prepared for future pandemics.

A year after the first coronavirus pandemic, more than 118 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus, with over 2.6 million deaths. This is based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. has by far reported the highest number of confirmed Covid cases and deaths, with more than 29 million reported infections and 529,263 deaths.