WHO experts team visits China to probe coronavirus origin, undergoes 14 days quarantine
Beijing, Jan 14: A team of experts from the World Health Organization has arrived in China on Thursday to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, after the country was criticised by the health body and other nations for a lack of transparency around tracking the pathogen's source.
However, the team will need to go through relevant quarantine procedures required under the country's epidemic control measures before conducting fieldwork, according to China's National Health Commission (NHC).
They were expected to go through a 14-day quarantine period and the necessary COVID-19 tests. NHC officials told the media in Beijing that finding the origins of the virus is a scientific question, and they suggested conducting similar visits to other countries to achieve this objective.
The confirmation date comes after a rare rebuke by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who expressed disappointment last week that China did not give final permission for the experts' entry, even as some had already started traveling.
Reacting to Tedros comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had said: "there might be some misunderstanding on this".
China and the World Health Organization (WHO) have reached a consensus on specific arrangements of the investigation with four video conferences, Zeng Yixin, the deputy head of the National Health Commission (NHC) said.
The investigation into the virus's origin will be conducted jointly with Chinese scientists once the WHO team arrives, the NHC said, without providing further details.
Once the WHO experts complete their procedures and finalise the schedule, Chinese experts will go to Wuhan with them to conduct the investigation, Zeng said.
The delay by China to finalise the visit fuelled concerns that Beijing was obstructing global efforts to trace the origins of COVID-19.
The probe comes almost a year since China locked down Wuhan as an outbreak of pneumonia that started with food market workers in late 2019 spread throughout the city.
Stung by criticism that it initially covered up the extent of the crisis - giving other countries less time to prepare - state media and officials have promoted the theory that the virus didn't start in China, but was brought in.
In May last year, the World Health Assembly (WHA) - the governing body of the 194-member states of the WHO asked the latter to investigate the "source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population".