Coronavirus likely spread to people from an animal, new WHO report says

30 March 2021, 17:40

People wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus
People wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus. Picture: PA

By Harriet Whitehead

The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 probably spread to humans through a different animal, according to a new 120-page report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Covid-19 also probably started spreading among humans no more than a month or two before it was noticed in December of 2019, states the report.

Although it likely spread to people from an animal, there needs to be further studies, it adds.

The report reads that evidence from surveys and targeted studies so far have shown that the coronaviruses most highly related to SARS-CoV-2 are found in bats and pangolins, "suggesting that these mammals may be the reservoir of the virus that causes Covid-19."

However, neither of the viruses identified so far from these species "is sufficiently similar to SARS-CoV-2 to serve as its direct progenitor".

READ MORE: Covid 'most likely' passed to humans from bats via other animal, draft WHO study finds

The report also looks closely at the role of markets.

Many of the early cases were associated with the Huanan market, but a similar number of cases were associated with other markets and some were not associated with any markets.

READ MORE: Covid-19 recorded on death certificate of over 150,000 people in the UK

The search for the origin of the virus is ongoing, as the source of the virus has yet to be confirmed.

Introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an "extremely unlikely" pathway.

"As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement Tuesday.

"This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end. We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do."

He suggested that "further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions".

READ MORE: Half of UK population now has Covid-19 antibodies

More than 20 heads of government and global agencies have also called for an international treaty for pandemic preparedness in an effort to protect future generations.

The international community should work together “towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response” to build a more robust global health architecture that will protect future generations, world leaders said.

They added: "There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone."

"The question is not if, but when. Together, we must be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly coordinated fashion. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe."

The commentary was signed by leaders including Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany, and Dr Tedros, the Director-General of the World Health Organization.