MOSCOW, March 23. /TASS/. A study decoding the novel coronavirus genome showed that the deadly virus had not been created in a lab, a leading specialist in infectious diseases at the Russian Health Ministry, Elena Malinnikova, said on Monday.
Earlier, some Russian and foreign media outlets, including the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) alleged that the novel coronavirus could have been made in a laboratory.
"I’ve heard this assumption, but at the moment the genome’s decoding indicated that it’s unlikely that this is a lab virus," Malinnikova told a TASS press conference.
According to the expert, the virus had emerged earlier than December 2019, when the outbreak of the novel coronavirus was recorded. She explained that the disease had originated in animals and that it was very difficult for a virus to jump from animals to humans because it’s a rather long process.
"This shows that it’s highly likely that this infection did not start circulating in the Chinese People’s Republic in December 2019. Most likely, this virus had emerged a little bit earlier, and only in December did our Chinese colleagues report that 41 people were ill," the specialist said.
The disease quickly spread to other countries, and since January 13 the virus started circulating outside China. "Epidemiologists say that the virus had been going around China for a long time," she noted.
The coronavirus outbreak was recorded in central China in late December 2019. More than 160 countries have been hit by this infection, which was labeled as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. According to the latest data, more than 320,000 people have contracted the virus and over 14,000 have died. A total of 438 coronavirus cases have been registered in Russia and 17 patients have recovered.