In a statement at odds with one from President Donald Trump a day earlier, the head of emergencies at the World Health Organization reiterated Friday that the group believes the novel coronavirus is “natural in origin.”
Dr. Michael Ryan was responding to comments by Trump, who said he has seen information that the virus may have emerged from a virology institute in China.
Ryan said WHO teams have listened “again and again” to many scientists who have looked at the gene sequences and the virus, “and we are assured that this virus is natural in origin.”
Ryan said it was important to establish the natural host of the virus, which could help pave the way for a better understanding of it and ways to prevent and respond to future outbreaks.
On Thursday, Trump suggested he was confident that China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology was at the origin of the coronavirus, before again criticizing WHO’s early response to the outbreak. Most scientists believe the virus emerged at a market in the Chinese city, linked to an animal that has not yet been identified.
The WHO’s Emergency Committee on the COVID-19 outbreak recommended Friday that the outbreak remain an international public health emergency, its highest level of alert.
The agency and Trump have been at odds for weeks, with Trump faulting it for its acceptance of China's narrative on how the pandemic arose and allowing slow disclosures to impede response to the virus. Trump has ordered U.S. funding to WHO cut.
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