By the time three of the scientists investigating the origins of SARS-CoV-2 in the Chinese city of Wuhan convened on March 10 for a virtual press conference, more than a year had passed since the World Health Organization asked Beijing for permission to admit them. During this time, as more than 2.6 million people died of COVID-19 and millions more suffered lasting effects of the illness, the mystery of the coronavirus' origins has loomed.
There is broad agreement that the coronavirus is part of a lineage of viruses found in horseshoe bats in South China. The mystery centers on how the virus came to cause an outbreak in Wuhan, a thousand miles away, without leaving any trace of its journey.
That is essentially the question Peter Daszak, an expert on disease zoology and a member of the WHO team, attempted to address in the press conference. Daszak, who is head of EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit that funded research into bat coronaviruses in China and elsewhere, is a vocal critic of the notion that the pandemic's origin involved some kind of laboratory accident; instead, he favors natural zoonosis as an explanation, which holds that the pandemic jumped from animals to people without human intervention.