A World Health Organization team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic will arrive in China on 14 January, China’s national health authority has said.
The team was initially aiming to enter China in early January but China blocked their arrival, saying visas had not yet been approved, even as some members of the group were on their way.
China’s foreign ministry called the delay a “misunderstanding.”
At the time, the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed his dismay and said he had called on China to allow the team in: “I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members have already begun their journeys, and others were not able to travel at the last minute,” he said.
“But I have been in contact with senior Chinese officials. And I have once again made made it clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team.”
The WHO has been attempting to send in the team of global experts from a number of countries for months. It has been talking with Chinese officials since July. Scientists want to determine how the virus jumped species into humans.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the team would be traveling to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.
A number of countries, including Australia, have called for an investigation into the origins of the virus.
After Tedros’ statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said the country was open to a visit but that it was still working on “necessary procedures and relevant concrete plans.”
China’s disease experts are currently busy, with multiple small-scale clusters and outbreaks reported in the past couple of weeks, ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
“Our experts are wholeheartedly in the stressful battle to control the epidemic,” Hua said.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters at UN headquarters in New York that secretary general, Antonio Guterres, “is fully supportive of Dr Tedros’ and WHO’s efforts to get a team in there.”
“It’s very important that as the WHO is in the lead in fighting the pandemic, that it also has a leading role in trying to look back at the roots of this pandemic so we can be better prepared for the next one,” Dujarric said. “We very much hope that China’s reported comments that it is working with WHO and looking for a smooth visit “will happen.”
Ahead of the trip, Beijing has been seeking to shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began, with senior diplomat Wang Yi saying “more and more studies” showed it emerged in multiple regions.
While other countries continue to struggle with infection surges, China has aggressively doused flare-ups. Sunday’s 103 new cases were the biggest daily increase in more than five months, as new infections rose in the province of Hebei, surrounding the capital, Beijing.
The source: The Guardian