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Which Steps to Take

Both the authors of the World Health Organization report released last week and critics of that report have suggested additional studies to conduct into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the New York Times reports.

The WHO sent a team of investigators earlier this year to Wuhan, China, where the first COVID-19 cases were reported to search for the source of the virus. The team issued its report last week in which it said SARS-CoV-2 most likely arose in bats before being transmitted to people through another animal. It further found that the lab leak theory is "extremely unlikely" and that though spread through "cold-chain" food products could have occurred, that route was also unlikely. Criticism of the report soon emerged, with a dozen countries issuing a statement about it that raised concerns that the did not have full data access. Science noted that though there is little evidence supporting the lab-leak theory, experts told it that as the team was unable to independently investigate it, the report should not have fully ruled it out.

As the Times reports, the WHO team offered a number of follow-up studies to conduct, such as testing blood donations made in China early in the outbreak to home in on other possible early cases as well as surveying wildlife farms, particularly mink farms. Meanwhile, a letter from an international group of researchers — many of whom previously called for a new inquiry — has suggested further investigation of biosafety and biosecurity measures, it adds, noting that the letter-writers have also called for more restrictions on viral research.

The Scan

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