The original mission of World Health Organization scientists was to study the animal origin of the novel coronavirus, which is why the new report does not provide the same depth of detail examining a lab leak theory, Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO scientist and lead investigator of the mission, said during a briefing on Tuesday.
"The team was put together to do studies into the zoonotic origin of this virus," Embarek said, adding that this is the first time the scientists have been able to openly discuss the lab leak possibility.
"Now we have a process to discuss it — we have put it in our report," Embarek said.
"Since this was not the key or main focus of the studies, it did not receive the same depth of attention and work as the other hypotheses. But also because that was the assessment —that it was not where we could see strong indication that that was something we should look into. And therefore, it was ranked as the least likely, so to speak, of the four possible pathways. Not saying that it was impossible, but not the one that we would start initially going deeper into and focusing our attention on."
The report notes that a laboratory incident was considered to be "an extremely unlikely pathway" for the virus to enter the human population.
"Of course, if there is a need to further explore this and potentially other hypotheses, of course we will continue to look into these hypotheses. We have also long said that as soon as there is new data, new evidence, new information, for any of these hypotheses we will put that into the assessment and reevaluate any of these hypotheses," Embarek said.