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Artificial origin of novel coronavirus cannot be ruled out — Russian expert

"It appears to me that this situation requires not guesses, but serious research," she said

MOSCOW, April 20. /TASS/. The artificial origin of the novel coronavirus cannot be ruled out, head of Russia’s Federal Medical-Biological Agency (FMBA) Veronika Skvortsova said on Wednesday.

"It appears to me that this situation requires not guesses, but serious research. None of the versions can be ruled out," she said in an interview with the Pozner TV show on Russia’s Channel One.

She went on to say that serious research on the issue is needed, because viruses that has RNA as their genetic material (including coronaviruses), mutate very easily.

"Indeed, we can see that a fairly large number of fragments distinguishes this virus from its very close relative, SARS. They are approximately 94% similar, the rest is different," she said.

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus - named COVID-19 by the WHO - have been reported in every corner of the globe, including Russia.

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, over 2,414,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 165,000 deaths have been reported. In addition, so far, over 629,000 individuals have recovered from the illness across the globe.

To date, a total of 47,121 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, with 3,446 patients having recovered from the virus. Russia’s latest data indicates 405 fatalities nationwide. Earlier, the Russian government set up an Internet hotline to keep the public updated on the coronavirus situation.