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'Extremely unlikely' Covid-19 escaped from Wuhan lab: WHO mission member

Tuesday - February 23, 2021 5:33 pm , Category : HEALTH
Sydney, Feb 23 (IANS) It is "extremely unlikely" that SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, escaped from a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a member of a World Health Organization (WHO) expert team sent to China on a Covid-19 origin-tracing mission said.
"The most politically sensitive option we looked at was the virus escaping from a laboratory," said Professor Dominic Dwyer from University of Sydney in an article on The Conversation, a publisher of research-based news and analysis. "We concluded this was extremely unlikely", he said, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology "is an impressive research facility, and looks to be run well, with due regard to staff health," said Dwyer. The professor said he has learned that blood samples of the scientists are routinely taken and stored, and "no evidence of antibodies to the coronavirus was found".
A clinical epidemiology group inside the team, according to Dwyer, looked at a large number of relative data and information, and "found no clear evidence of substantial circulation of Covid-19 in Wuhan during the latter part of 2019 before the first case".
"We talked to our Chinese counterparts -- scientists, epidemiologists, doctors -- over the four weeks the WHO mission was in China. We were in meetings with them for up to 15 hours a day, so we became colleagues, even friends," Dwyer said. "This allowed us to build respect and trust in a way you couldn't necessarily do via Zoom or email," he noted.
The Australian expert said the virus was most likely of animal origin but not necessarily at a wet market in Wuhan. "It probably crossed over to humans from bats, via an as-yet-unknown intermediary animal at an unknown location," he said, adding that the experts "are still working to confirm the exact chain of events that led to the curreneservation and making provision for disqualification on grounds of defection.
For this, it decided to amend the Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act of 1994 and the Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation Elections Rules of 2012.
It also gave approval to provide government land on lease in Paonta Sahib tehsil in Sirmaur district to the Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry for establishing a regional horticulture research and training station.
The Cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, gave nod to extend the engagement of 2,555 school management committee (SMC) teachers in the elementary and higher education departments for 2021-22.
As a mark of respect to Galwan Valley martyr Ankush Thakur from Hamirpur, the Cabinet allowed to rename the Government Senior Secondary School at Manoh in Hamirpur district after him.
The Cabinet also gave its consent to provide reservation of one seat in auxiliary nurse midwife, commonly known as ANM, or B.Sc. nursing courses for eligible widows below 45 years in each institute in the state.
It also gave its approval for amending the Mukhya Mantri Swavlamban Yojna of 2019 to reduce the burden of loan on the entrepreneurs and the subsidy would be deposited in the term loan account of the borrower and would be adjusted only after three years.
After the disbursement of the first instalment of loan by the bank, the general manager with the General Insurance Corporation of India would approve the subsidy amount in two instalments of 60 per cent initially and 40 per cent after the unit commences commercial production or operation and physical verification of the unit have been done.
The remaining 40 per cent subsidy amount would be released within 15 days of the verification, an official statement said.

--IANS vg/arm