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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

WHO Experts to Visit China This Week to Probe Virus Origins

SHANGHAI – A team of international experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) will visit China this week to conduct an investigation into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, the Asian country’s National Health Commission confirmed on Monday.

The WHO experts will arrive on Thursday and will meet with their local counterparts, the commission said in a brief statement posted on its website. It did not specify the places the experts will travel to.

News of the visit comes after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very disappointed” at delays to the mission by Beijing, a claim the Chinese authorities have denied.

Several team members had already set out on their trip to China in early January but Tedros said that “Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China.”

The first COVID-19 outbreak was recorded in the Chinese city of Wuhan during the end of December 2019.

Experts who were unable to gain entry into China returned to their countries of origin until the situation was resolved.

In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that “there has never been any problem with China’s cooperation with WHO.”

Dismissing claims that it was just a visa issue, Hua added that “the two sides are still in close communication on the specific date and arrangements for the visit of the international team of experts.”

The WHO head has consistently praised Beijing since the start of the pandemic, which earned the organization harsh criticism from Western countries, especially from the United States, whose government has repeatedly accused China of being to blame for the global spread of the coronavirus.

This mission, a “priority” for the WHO, according to Tedros, will comprise scientists from various international organizations from the US, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Vietnam, Germany and Qatar.

The aim of the mission is to find the animal origins of SARS-CoV-2 and how it is transmitted to humans.

Although the initial theory is that the virus spread from a wet market in Wuhan, official Chinese media has in recent months pointed to imported frozen foods, especially meat and fish, as the main route of outbreaks of the virus in China.

Although WHO experts have already visited China to trace the virus’ origins in February and July of last year, the investigation has been delayed for months and been shrouded in secrecy, both by the international body as well as the Chinese authorities.

 

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