Health experts from multiple countries have rejected claims that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin, and condemned related conspiracy theories.
"We are public health scientists who have closely followed the emergence of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and are deeply concerned about its impact on global health and wellbeing," 27 experts from around the world said in an online statement published on Wednesday by The Lancet, a world-renowned general medical journal.
Speaking highly of the "remarkable effort" of Chinese scientists and health professionals in identifying the pathogen, reducing its impact and sharing information, they noted that "the rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumors and misinformation around its origins."
Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, and "overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens," said the statement.
"This is further supported by a letter from the presidents of the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and by the scientific communities they represent," added the statement.
"We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin," they said, stressing that "conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus."
The scientists also voiced support for the call from World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus "to promote scientific evidence and unity over misinformation and conjecture."