Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from an animal reservoir like bats to another host in which the virus spread before infecting humans.
That's always been the favored hypothesis of many virologists, but the team convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) reports little fresh evidence to support it, and members acknowledge several other scenarios, including an accidental release from a lab, remain possible.
"It is clear that that the Chinese government has not provided all the data needed and, until they do, firmer conclusions will be hard", he said in a statement.
The team of scientists came from around the world: Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Viet Nam.
Arguments against "There is no record of viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in any laboratory before December 2019, or genomes that in combination could provide a SARS-CoV-2 genome", the report said. "And I think this report is a testament to how, even under very intense scrutiny and very hard political circumstances, countries can come together to focus on the origins of emerging diseases", Daszak said.
Dr Tedros said the "role of animal markets is still unclear".
"I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing", he said. However, the World Health Organization report says "the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and (the coronavirus) is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link".
The report recommends a host of further studies, in particular, sampling for the virus in wildlife and in farmed animals to find a possible intermediate host. "We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do".
Team leader Peter Ben Embarek of the World Health Organization presented the team's first-phase look into the possible origins of the coronavirus that has left almost 2.8 million people dead and pummeled economies since it first turned up in China over a year ago.
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Some members of former U.S. President Donald Trump's administration have promoted a lab leak theory, though they have not provided specific evidence to support their supposition.
"Seventeen experts, longstanding leaders from the field, including epidemiology, public health, clinical medicine, veterinary medicine, infectious disease, law, food security, biosafety, biosecurity, we have a lot of experts in government, will be reviewing this report intensively and quickly", she said at a daily briefing.
Repeated delays in the report's release raised questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to influence the findings.
Speaking at a virtual press conference after the conclusion of the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing, Li stressed that China will continue to work with the World Health Organization on tracing the origins of COVID-19. They should have unfettered access to data.
"The team has confirmed that there was widespread contamination with Sars-CoV-2 in the Huanan market in Wuhan, but could not determine the source of this contamination", said Dr Tedros. The report cited several reasons for all but dismissing that possibility.
The report adds that another likely source of the virus is direct transmission from one of the animals known to carry a similar coronavirus, such as a bat or a pangolin.
However, Tedros called for "more robust conclusions".
Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, a World Health Organization expert who is part of the team investigating the origins of the novel coronavirus, says it is "extremely unlikely" the virus came from a lab in Wuhan, China.
But there were few details to explain how such an agreement might actually compel countries to act more co-operatively.