"All Hypotheses Remain Open" On Covid Origins: WHO Chief

Asked about the World Health Organization findings during a daily news briefing, State Department spokesman Ned Price said he could not conclusively say that World Health Organization experts had received full cooperation from China.

"This grim milestone must refocus everyone on stamping out the virus", said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province, is the first place in the world that the virus was detected in 2019.

"This comes as Africa battles new, more contagious variants and gears up for its largest-ever vaccination drive", the United Nations agency said in a statement after a virtual press conference.

New variants are likely to emerge as the virus continues to spread so preventive measures must be maintained even as Africa gears up to start vaccinations against the virus.

When pressed on why the mission did not believe a lab could have been the source, Peter Ben Embarek, the mission's head, told Friday's briefing that scientists from labs in Wuhan had told his team they didn't have it. But he added that scientists are still "far away from understanding the origin and identifying animal species and, or the pathways from which the virus could have entered the human in December". "The supply chains to the Huanan seafood market were extensive, they were coming in from other countries, they were coming in from various parts of China, so to really trace that back it's going to take some work".

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disclosed in January, based on U.S. intelligence, that workers at the lab were infected by the novel coronavirus in August, months before the first cases in the general public were disclosed. The experts' visit was closely-monitored by the Chinese authorities.

Speculation about the Wuhan Institute of Virology - one of China's top virus research labs - began past year and was propagated by former US President Donald Trump.

The criticism from Daszak came in response to comments Tuesday from the U.S. Department of State, which expressed skepticism about the investigation's findings.

Tedros also cautioned, as he had in prior briefings, that the mission would not find all the answers, but he said it has added important information that takes us closer to understanding the origins of the virus.

In his speech posted on World Health Organization website, Ghebreyesus said World Health Organization held a global meeting of patients, clinicians and other stakeholders last week to advance understanding of what is officially called post-COVID-19 condition or long COVID.

Eager to deflect global criticism over its initial handling of the outbreak, China has also amplified studies suggesting some COVID-19 cases emerged in Italy and other countries in late 2019.

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