Aresearch lab in , the city where Covid-19 first emerged, will not be visited by (WHO) investigators looking into the origins of the pandemic.
WHO is sending a mission to Wuhan, in Hubei province, but has said investigators will be there only to “advance the understanding of animal hosts for Covid-19 and ascertain how the disease jumped between animals and humans”.
The statement appears to rule out a visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and suggests the body has already discounted the possibility the virus may have been cooked up or modified in the lab.
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Bosses at WHO have also declined to provide details of places its investigators will inspect or the people they will meet – however, it is understood Chinese authorities will monitor and limit all movements.
It had previously emerged the lab had held a coronavirus sample that was 96.2 per cent the same as Covid-19 for almost a decade. This prompted speculation about the origin of the virus, despite scientists overwhelmingly believing the genetic code of the virus suggests it mutated naturally.
Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: “To have any value, an investigation must address the possibility the virus entered humans through a laboratory accident.”
He added WHO should also consider if the virus’s ability to infect humans was “enhanced through laboratory manipulation”.