On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that all of the evidence they have points to the coronavirus having originated in animals near the end of last year in China and not being made or manipulated in a laboratory.
Last week, President Donald Trump said that US intelligence is looking into whether the virus came from a lab in Wuhan, China where the outbreak originally surfaces and was identified in December.
In a news briefing, Fadela Chaib, a WHO spokesman said, “All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else. It is probable, likely, that the virus is of animal origin.”
Chaib added that they are still unsure of how the virus managed to spread from animals to humans but that there was “certainly” an animal host.
“It most likely has its ecological reservoir in bats but how the virus came from bats to humans is still to be seen and discovered.”
Chaib did not elaborate on whether the virus could have possibly escaped from a lab, which US intelligence agencies are looking into.
The theory of accidental viral escape was dismissed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the lab in question.
An official statement from French President Emmanuel Macron's office last week noted no evidence of a connection between COVID-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, last week.
“We would like to make it clear that there is to this day no factual evidence corroborating the information recently circulating in the United States press that establishes a link between the origins of COVID-19 and the work of the P4 laboratory of Wuhan, China,” said an statement from Macron's office on April 17.
In 2004, France and China signed an agreement to start a research lab for infectious diseases in Wuhan at level BSL-4—the highest level of biosafety.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley noted that US intelligence agencies have said that the virus likely came about naturally and was not made in a Chinese lab, but they are not certain of anything yet.
While the theory that the virus was made in a lab was floated in January, it moved into the realm of investigable theory in April. The investigation by the Trump administration is not because they believe the coronavirus was intentionally made, but to uncover whether or not it was accidentally leaked from the lab, as opposed to transferred from bat to human at the Wuhan wet market, in an unknown fashion.
When asked about Trump’s decision to suspend the WHO’s funding, Chaib said, “We are still assessing the situation about the announcement by President Trump … and we will assess the situation and we will work with our partners to fill any gaps.”
"It is very important to continue what we are doing not only for COVID but for many, many, many, many other health programs," Chaib added.
She said that by the end of March, the WHO had 81 percent of its funding for the coming two years. The United States was the agency’s largest donor.