The world’s first Covid-19 patient may have been infected by a bat while working for a Wuhan lab in China, a World Health Organization chief has admitted.
Dr Peter Embarek, who led the WHO probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in China, made the shocking claim despite initially dismissing the notion that the virus escaped from a lab as extremely unlikely.
Now, Embarek has admitted that the lab leak theory could have happened, suggesting that a Chinese researcher could have been infected by a bat while taking samples in connection with research at a Wuhan lab.
Speaking with Denmark’s television station TV2 Embarkek said: ‘An employee who was infected in the field by taking samples falls under one of the probable hypotheses.
‘This is where the virus jumps directly from a bat to a human.’
He explained: ‘In that case, it would then be a laboratory worker instead of a random villager or other person who has regular contact with bats. So it is actually in the probable category.’
The Danish scientist stressed that the WHO investigators found no direct evidence of this.
China have long been accused at home and abroad of covering up the initial outbreak and concealing information when it first emerged in Wuhan in December 2019.
Dr Embarek’s comments are a marked reversal on those he made while still in China on the fact-finding mission when he called on scientists to stop investigating the possibility the virus escaped from a lab.
He also initially insisted there is no evidence of transmission ‘in Wuhan or elsewhere’ before December 2019.
But a week later he backtracked and said his team had discovered there were at least 13 Covid variants in Wuhan in December, suggesting the virus had been in development for some time to allow these different strains to develop.
He also revealed that up to 1,000 people in Wuhan could have been infected in early December an estimate based on Chinese data that showed 174 severe cases of the disease.
The Huanan wet market, where scientists say the first cluster of infections were officially reported, is just a few hundred yards from the Wuhan Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
It is also only a few miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab, where scientists were reportedly conducting experiments on bats and studying bat-based coronaviruses similar to Covid-19 before the pandemic began.
Questions have since been asked about the role the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab has played in the Covid-19 pandemic.