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China has denied the World Health Organization access to bat caves and wildlife farming areas in an area six hours west of Wuhan – just days before a new virus was detected near Beijing as it emerged The sale of live animals in wet markets in the U.S. was banned. a report.

WHO scientists are trying to reach hundreds of caves in Enshi Prefecture of Hubei Province – west of the Chinese city where COVID-19 first emerged, Washington Post Said Monday.

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The scientists also want to investigate nearby wildlife farming areas, which were known to breed thousands of wild animals before the pandemic.

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Scientists believe those animals could potentially be an intermediate host for the spread of the virus from bats to humans – and argue that examining farms is an important step in determining the origin of the pandemic. , stated in the report.

Researchers are investigating natural transmission in addition to the theory that COVID-19 escaped from a Chinese lab.

One possible theory that may arise from natural transmission is that the virus was passed from a bat to an intermediate host, such as a farm animal that was sold in a wet market.

China has denied access to bat caves to the World Health Organization to trace the origin of COVID-19 (iStock).

Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly claimed that the pandemic originated elsewhere.

But according to local Chinese media, the sale of live animals in wet markets in the Enshi region was banned in December 2019 – just eight days before the Chinese government publicly acknowledged a new virus was detected in a wet market in Wuhan. was detected.

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Six wet markets in Enshi were closed until March 2020 as the pandemic took hold globally. It is still unclear why the markets closed so quickly.

A source in the Wuhan market supply chain told The Post that some of the wild animals sold in Wuhan before the pandemic were brought from Hubei province, including Enshi.

The caves in Enshi are also known for human foot traffic, and some wildlife farms that have since closed are located about a mile from the cave entrance.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington did not confirm whether bats or farm-born wild animals in Enshi had ever been tested for the virus.

Scientists believe the caves could potentially offer a way into how the virus spread from bats to other animals or humans before reaching Wuhan – but because of Beijing’s refusal to allow entry Nothing is concrete.

Michael Vorobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, told The Post that virologists need to figure out which viruses are circulating in the Enshi cave bats.

“That kind of close proximity of farm animals and bats that can carry coronaviruses is exactly the kind of thing we worry about,” Vorobey said.

This article first appeared in the New York Post.