Over 17 months after WHO first reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China, scientists are yet to determine with certainty how the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged. Much like other viruses, SARS-CoV-2 too could have a natural origin or somehow escaped from the coronavirus research lab in Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak. With no hard scientific evidence available to confirm the lab leak hypothesis, there are some scientific leads that support a natural origin. If it is a zoonotic spillover, the virus could have either directly crossed over from bats to humans or through an intermediate host. But till date, neither the bat species that hosts the SARS-CoV-2 virus nor the intermediate host has been found. China’s secrecy and delay in reporting the Wuhan outbreak and in finding the natural host or the intermediary have further fuelled the lab spillover hypothesis. Finding the host animal can be daunting. While the civet cat and dromedary camel were

The latest factory output data released by the National Statistical Office is yet another sign of the rocky start that the economy is having in the new fiscal year. April’s Index of Industrial Production (IIP) estimates show all three sectoral constituents of the index — mining, manufacturing and electricity — suffered reverses, as output slid below the preceding month’s levels. With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic increasing in intensity that month and several key industrial hubs coming under renewed local lockdowns, all six end-use categories — primary, capital, intermediate and construction goods and consumer durables and non-durables — endured month-on-month contractions. Manufacturing, which accounts for 77.6% of the IIP, saw production shrink 12.6% from March, and contributed significantly to a 13% sequential contraction in overall industrial output. The NSO advised against drawing a year-on-year comparison, which it said would be affected by the fact that the nationwide

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