A British scientist revealed that Chinese experts identified the Wuhan huanan market as a potential origin of the pandemic at least five years before Covid-19 emerged.
Dr Eddie Holmes said he visited the Huanan seafood market in 2014 with local health officials highlighting the place as a place where the virus can spread from animals to humans.
Dr Holmes, an evolutionary biologist and virologist now working at the University of Sydney, said he was taken there five years earlier by members of the Wuhan Center for Disease Control.
Quoted from The Telegraph, Dr Holmes said that his visit was part of a broader project to hunt for new pathogens that could potentially trigger a pandemic.
“The Wuhan CDC took us there, and this is the main key, because the discussion is, Where can disease arise ?,” he said.
“I’ve been to some of these markets, but it’s a huge market, it feels like a disease incubator, exactly where you would expect disease to appear,” he said.
There are crates of wildlife piled up with fish, snakes, rats, and raccoon dogs, fox-like animals known to be carriers of Covid-19.
Many of the creatures were alive, added Dr Holmes, who remembers seeing one bludgeoned in front of him.
“An animal had got out or something, and somebody was clubbing it,” he said, mimicking the hand actions over Zoom. “I think it was a racoon dog, though I couldn’t quite see. It was pretty confronting.”
While there, he saw a merchant beat a raccoon dog to death.
Dr Holmes said he was unsure whether the Wuhan CDC had stepped up surveillance or introduced new security measures in the years following his visit.
SARS, a bug almost identical to the Covid virus, also emerged in China in 2002 and was also transmitted from animals to humans.
That epidemic was better contained because the virus did not spread as quickly and people had more obvious symptoms.
The connection to the Huanan food market was made right at the start of the Covid pandemic, when officials found that around a third of the first 168 people to get infected had been there recently.