Resident wear masks to buy vegetables in the market on January 23th, 2020 in Wuhan, China.
Evidence suggests the coronavirus originated in bats in China in late 2019 and was not manipulated or made in a laboratory, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.
The comment from the United Nation’s health agency comes after President Donald Trump said last week that the U.S. was trying to determine whether the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan, central China.
“All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not a manipulated or constructed virus in a lab or somewhere else,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a news briefing in Geneva, Reuters reported Tuesday.
“It is probable, likely that the virus is of animal origin,” she said, adding that there had “certainly” been an intermediate animal host before the virus had been transmitted to humans.
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News last week that the country’s intelligence community was examining whether the coronavirus emerged accidentally from a Chinese lab studying diseases in bats. The lab in question has denied the accusation, calling it a “conspiracy theory.”
The coronavirus has now infected almost 2.5 million people and caused over 170,000 deaths around the world, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.
The WHO and President Trump have had a dramatic falling-out over the pandemic, with the U.S. president announcing last week that he would halt his country’s funding to the organization.
Trump accused the WHO of mishandling its response to the pandemic. The WHO responded by saying it would not be appropriate to suspend funding during the global outbreak.
On Tuesday, the WHO said it was still assessing the impact of blocked U.S. funds to the organization, and that it would work with its partners to fill any gaps, Reuters reported.