COVID origin investigations to continue despite lack of results from WHO's Wuhan team

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By Mark Armstrong  with AP, AFP
COVID origin investigations to continue despite lack of results from WHO's Wuhan team
Copyright  Jean-Christophe Bott/AP

As Europe and the rest of the world continue to roll out vaccination programmes the World Health Organisation has returned from Wuhan in China having reached no definitive conclusions as to the origins of COVID-19.

The WHO says it will continue to investigate all avenues as to how and where the pandemic started and how it spread around the world so quickly with devastating results.

"Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded," explained WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "Having spoken with some members of the team, I wish to confirm that all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and studies. "

Meanwhile, many European nations are still taking no chances. In Austria, anyone leaving the Tyrol region must now have had a negative COVID test - a measure put in place after a case of the South African variant was discovered. 

Checks for the tests are also being carried out by police, with support from the army. 

Germany acknowledges slow start

In neighbouring Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected criticism on Friday of the country's slow vaccine roll-out; however, did admit to German public broadcaster ZDF that there had been some disappointment at the timeline. 

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is concerned about new variants of the virus, stressing that vaccines must be rolled out rapidly to low-income countries to avoid even more mutations. 

He made the comments as joined a virtual meeting of the Access to COVID-19 tools Accelerator project, a global collective set up to fight the disease.

In Italy, health officials say the so-called UK variant, a more contagious mutation, now accounts for nearly 18% of all cases in the country.

It has so far been detected in Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo, where red zones have been set up in a bid to isolate cases.

Because the variant is so fast-moving, it could become the dominant strain of coronavirus in Italy within five to six weeks.