Peter Ben Embarek, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) mission, said it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus leaked from a lab in the city of Wuhan.
Experts believe the virus is likely to have originated in animals before spreading to humans, but they are not sure how. He said identifying the animal pathway remained a “work in progress”, but that it was “most likely” to have crossed over to humans from an intermediary species.
The experts also said there was “no indication” that the virus was circulating in Wuhan before the first official cases were recorded there in December 2019.
Liang Wannian, an expert with China’s Health Commission, said Covid-19 could have been in other regions before it was detected in Wuhan.
The team called for further investigation into the possibility of “cold chain” transmission, referring to the transport and trade of frozen food.The WHO mission began in January, following months of negotiations with Beijing. The experts’ visit was closely-monitored by the Chinese authorities.