World Health Organization to probe origins of COVID-19 in China

Clay Curtis
January 12, 2021

Ten World Health Organization scientists will visit China from Thursday to probe the origins of Covid-19, authorities said Monday, more than a year after the pandemic began and amid accusations Beijing has tried to thwart the investigation.

Lack of authorisation from Beijing had delayed the arrival of the 10-strong team on a long-awaited mission to investigate early infections, in what China's foreign ministry called a "misunderstanding".

Ten worldwide experts will visit China from Thursday to probe the origins of the new coronavirus, more than a year after the pandemic began and amid accusations that Beijing has tried to thwart the investigation.

The WHO Director General welcomed the announcement, saying on Twitter, "We look forward to working closely with our [Chinese] counterparts on this critical mission to identify the virus source and its route of introduction to the human population".

Ten global experts will visit China from Thursday to probe the origins of the new coronavirus.

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He cited an armed attack on its embassy in Washington last April as one example. The US is expected to site Cuba's refusal to extradite fugitives .

"Since the outbreak of the pandemic, China has been open and transparent in communicating and cooperating with the World Health Organization on the origin tracing work, showing a responsible attitude", Zhao said on Monday, pointing to previous World Health Organization expert visits past year. Chinese officials and State media have in recent months backed a narrative suggesting COVID-19 may have originated elsewhere but was first "detected" in Wuhan.

The National Health Commission, which announced the date, did not offer details on the team's itinerary.

Tedros specified that the experts will develop the scope and terms of reference for a WHO-led worldwide mission, whose objective is to advance the understanding of animal hosts for COVID-19 and ascertain how the disease jumped between animals and humans.

A health expert affiliated with the WHO said expectations should be "very low" that the team will reach a conclusion from their trip to China.

"Along with continuous changes in the epidemic situation, our knowledge of the virus deepens, and more early cases are discovered", Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing, adding that the search for the origin will likely involve "multiple countries and localities".

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