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New Research Suggests Industrial Livestock, Not Wet Markets, Might Be Origin of COVID-19

Let’s be clear: there is no solid evidence that the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the cause of the current Covid-19 disease pandemic, is an open seafood market in Wuhan that also trades in domestic and wild animals.

All that we know is that several early cases of people diagnosed with Covid-19 either worked at this market or shopped there in the days preceding their diagnosis.

Many media outlets and pundits have seized on this information to claim that Chinese wet markets and the live trade in domestic and wild animals are to blame for the emergence of the disease1. And some are even calling for a ban on wet markets— which are vital to the livelihoods and food security of millions of small farmers, traders and consumers2.

There is a growing body of evidence that points to a different origin story for Covid-19. We now know that none of the animals tested at the Wuhan seafood market tested positive and about a third of the initial set of reported cases in people in Wuhan from early December 2019 had no connection to the seafood market, including the first reported case 3 4 . And we also now know, thanks to the leak of an official Chinese report to the South China Morning Post that the actual first known case of Covid-19 in Hubei was detected in mid-November, weeks before the cluster of cases connected to the Wuhan seafood market were reported5.

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