Screenshot from a video interview of Gao Fu, director of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, with Phoenix Television, May 25, 2020.
No coronavirus has been detected in animal samples collected from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, said Gao Fu, director of China's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who visited Wuhan in person in early January to investigate the outbreak. The market had been thought by some as the origin of the virus and the epidemic in China.
In an online video interview with local media on Tuesday, Gao said coronavirus was found in samples from the local environment including sewage, but not the animals at the market.
"At the beginning, we presumed that the seafood market may have the novel coronavirus. But it now turns out that the market is one of the victims," Gao added, noting that scientific research needs time to get done.
Gao's remark was consistent with a U.S. scientist who told CGTN in an exclusive interview that although some of the early cases were linked to the seafood market in Wuhan, others, including earlier ones, were not.
"We don't know where the novel coronavirus came from. The spark landed in Wuhan, but we don't know where the spark came from. It could have come from just about anywhere in nature on planet Earth," said Dr. Robert Garry, a professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine also a co-author of a widely recognized study of the virus origin.
"The virus came into the market not from the market," he said.
According to Dr. Garry, the pandemic may have been triggered by a mutation in surface proteins of the virus. It's also possible that a less severe version of the illness had been circulating through the population for years, perhaps even decades, before escalating to this point.
China's attitude towards origin tracing
The natural origin of the new type of coronavirus has yet to be worked out by scientists across the world. But, some have proposed two possible scenarios that can plausibly explain the origin of SARS-CoV-2: Natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer and natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer.
During a press conference on the sidelines of the third session of the 13th National People's Congress on Sunday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed support for a transparent and objective effort to source the origin of the coronavirus, adding that "all countries closely related to the virus should be covered by field missions."
"China is open to joint open efforts by the international science community to identify the source of the virus," he said. "Importantly, it must be a professional, impartial and constructive process," Wang detailed.
The foreign minister stressed that the process should be science-based and led by the World Health Organization, adding that it must be free from political interference, respect the sovereign equality of nations and avoid a presumption of guilt.