June 10, 2022, 03.06 PM

But the team on the panel — known as the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) — said it was still impossible to do so because of a lack of data.

They also said there were "recognized challenges" in investigating "such a long time after the initial outbreak", although their work would continue.

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"The longer it takes, the harder it becomes," Maria Van Kerkhove, a senior WHO official on the SAGO secretariat, told a briefing, adding the WHO would support all ongoing efforts to better understand how the pandemic began.

The report said no new information had been provided on the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was introduced to humans through a laboratory incident, and "it remains important to consider all reasonable scientific data" to evaluate this possibility.

Reflecting the political wrangling that has dogged the drafting of the report, it includes a footnote outlining how members of the panel from Brazil, China and Russia disagreed that further studies were needed on the lab hypothesis and suggested nothing had changed since the previous WHO-China joint report on origins, published in March 2021.

The latest report also includes a framework for how to pinpoint the origins of future outbreaks, which WHO said is the panel’s central aim, rather than drawing conclusions on Covid-19.

SAGO co-chair Jean-Claude Manuguerra said monkeypox was an "illustration of how much we need this global framework" to find out how future pathogens emerge.

When the panel was set up in October, WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan said it was the "best chance … it may be our last chance" to understand the origins of the coronavirus.

The report also includes a long list of recommendations for further studies that could shed more light on Covid-19's origins.


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