Mar 27, 2021 - World

Chinese officials brief diplomats on possible COVID-19 origins

Illustration of a hand holding a coronavirus cell.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chinese officials briefed diplomats in Beijing on Friday on four possible ways the coronavirus arrived in Wuhan, AP reports.

Why it matters: The briefing comes ahead of the release of the World Health Organization's report on the virus' origin, and "is based on a visit earlier this year by a WHO team of international experts to Wuhan," the AP writes.

  • "The experts worked with Chinese counterparts, and both sides have to agree on the final report. It’s unclear when it will come out," according to AP.

Details: Feng Zijian, deputy director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, identified the four possible origins:

  1. A bat carrying the virus infected a person.
  2. A bat infected a mammal who then gave it to a person.
  3. The virus came from shipments of cold or frozen food.
  4. It leaked from a Wuhan laboratory that was researching viruses.

Experts said it is most likely that the virus originated from the two animal routes or from the cold food shipment, adding that a "lab leak was viewed as extremely unlikely," AP notes.

The big picture: "The debate over the origins of the coronavirus has been ongoing since the start of the pandemic, causing rising tensions between the U.S. and China," Axios' Zachary Basu reports.

What's next: WHO said on Friday that the report was finalized and was currently getting fact-checked and translated.

  • “I expect that in the next few days, that whole process will be completed and we will be able to release it publicly,” WHO expert Peter Ben Embarek said, per AP.
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