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WHO scientist Peter Ben Embarek. Photo: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

A World Health Organization team researching the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan said Tuesday that it's "extremely unlikely" the virus came from a laboratory accident, and that it most likely jumped to humans via an intermediate species, per AP.

Why it matters: The Wuhan Institute of Virology, located just under 9 miles from the wet market where some scientists say the outbreak may have began, has been at the center of conspiracy theories over the origins of the virus.

  • “Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific, targeted research,” said WHO scientist Peter Ben Embarek.
  • It is unclear which animal transmitted the virus or when that occurred. The virus may have also been transmitted through frozen food, Embarek said.

The big picture: The news conference comes after a two-week-long mission by a team of scientists from WHO and China, which had long been delayed by the Chinese government's refusal to let international investigators into the country.

  • Though investigators have focused on the wet market, where live animals are sold, transmission likely occurred in other areas of Wuhan at the time, said China's National Health Commission spokesperson Liang Wannian.
  • There is no indication that the virus was spreading in Wuhan before December 2019, investigators said.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Americans shrug off Omicron, Axios-Ipsos poll finds — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise."
  2. Vaccines: Omicron gives a shot to boosters — U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down.
  3. States: Gov. Hochul will order some NY hospitals to halt elective surgeries — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers.
  4. World: EU drug regulator backs mixing COVID vaccines — Poor global equity likely in COVID pill access — CDC raises travel advisories for France, Portugal to highest level amid COVID surge.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Facebook says it will crack down on COVID vaccine misinformation

Photo illustration: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook says it will take tougher action during the pandemic against claims that vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccination, are not effective or safe.

Why it matters: It's a partial reversal from Facebook's previous position on vaccine misinformation. In September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company wouldn't target anti-vaccination posts the same way it has aggressively cracked down on COVID misinformation.

CDC chief: Trump-appointed aides "politically swayed" some COVID guidelines

CDC director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

CDC director Rochelle Walensky told the Washington Post on Monday that "a vast minority" of the agency's COVID-19 pandemic response guidelines had been "politically swayed" by some staff appointed by former President Trump.

Driving the news: Walensky said CDC principal deputy director Anne Schuchat was leading a review into the matter and that the agency was updating affected guidelines.