The Chinese city of Wuhan may not be the origin of the novel coronavirus, senior UN health official Mike Ryan said on Monday, announcing extensive studies to track down the animal species that transmitted the virus to humans.
"The fact that that fire alarm was triggered doesn't necessarily mean that that is where the disease crossed from animals into humans," WHO emergency operations chief Ryan said during a press conference in Geneva.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and China are to put together an international team that is to go to Wuhan to trace back the chain of infections from the first Covid-19 cases that appeared there late last year, after the outbreak was detected by the city's pneumonia surveillance system.
While Chinese researchers have conducted studies around initial cases and around the Wuhan seafood market to find the source animal, "there are gaps in the epidemiological landscape," Ryan said.
"What is required is going to be a much more extensive retrospective epidemiological study" to look at the links between the first human cases, he added.
A team to China
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had announced in late June that a small WHO advance team would go to China to prepare this work.
It took a month until the WHO experts and their Chinese counterparts drafted the outlines of a work plan.
On Friday, an international expert group that advises the WHO on the Covid-19 pandemic said the UN health agency should speed up research to find the animal source of the novel coronavirus.