Scientists taking part in a highly anticipated investigation into the origins of Covid-19 are confident the current fact-finding mission in China will narrow down the possibilities around how the virus emerged.
The international experts – who finally left their hotel in Wuhan after a stringent two week quarantine on Thursday afternoon – have downplayed expectations, warning that the World Health Organization-led mission is unlikely to provide all the answers craved.
But Dr Peter Daszak, a zoologist and president of the EcoHealth Alliance, told the Telegraph he is optimistic the visit “is fundamentally, a really big step forward” in understanding how Sars-Cov-2 jumped from animals to humans.
Speaking after a visit to a hospital where some of the first coronavirus patients were treated more than a year ago, Dr Daszak said the team looks set to gain “access to all the places we want to visit” and conversations with Chinese scientists and doctors have not been censored or “vetted”.
He added: “We’re keeping completely open minded on all possible hypotheses. But I think that if we carry on the way we did today, we’re going to be able to, at the end of this mission, say something more serious about which hypotheses hold more weight.
“You know, where does the evidence seem to be pointing? Was the Huanan seafood market truly the origin of Covid? What was the first case ever at that market? Or is there evidence that it was circulating for longer? Is there evidence that animals were involved?