While an international team of researchers organized by the World Health Organization says that the forebearer of SARS-CoV-2 likely arose in bats, it notes that more data is needed on how it jumped to humans, the New York Times reports.
Investigations into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 have been fraught. A number of initial COVID-19 cases centered on a market in Wuhan, China, suggesting that the virus perhaps spilled over into people from wildlife sold there. Others, notably former US President Donald Trump, suggested that it might stem from a laboratory leak, an idea rejected by the Chinese government. An initial investigation conducted by the World Health Organization found the lab-leak theory to be "extremely unlikely" and said SARS-CoV-2 likely originated in bats and passed through an unknown animal before infecting humans. But that report drew criticism for basing its conclusions on incomplete data and limited cooperation from China.
In October, the WHO assembled a new team to investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2. According to the Associated Press, the team says in its new report, that "key pieces of data" that would shed light on the early days of the pandemic are missing and that it would "remain open to any and all scientific evidence that becomes available in the future to allow for comprehensive testing of all reasonable hypotheses."
The AP adds that, in response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian rejected the lab-leak theory as a "lie concocted by anti-China forces for political purposes."