WHO team arrives in China’s Wuhan to investigate coronavirus origins

A worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team on their arrival at the airport in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (AP)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — A global team of researchers led by the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived on Thursday in China’s city of Wuhan to investigate the origins of COVID-19 that sparked the pandemic, according to media reports.

The 10-member team arrived late in the morning on a budget airline from Singapore and was expected to head into two weeks of quarantine, according to Reuters.

They are to start working with Chinese experts via videoconference while in quarantine, CGTV, the English-language channel of state broadcaster CCTV, said.

The was approved by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of the WHO, The Associated Press reported.

The members include virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.

Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s top expert on animal diseases that cross to other species, who went to China on a preliminary mission last July, is leading the team, Reuters cited a WHO spokesman as saying.

The United States, which has accused China of hiding the extend of its initial outbreak a year ago, has called for a “transparent” WHO-led investigation and criticized the terms of the visit, Reuters said.

After completing quarantine, the team will spend two weeks interviewing people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market in Wuhan where the new pathogen is believed to have emerged, Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese biologist who is part of the 10-member team, told Reuters.

Scientists suspect the virus that has killed 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest.

The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints it allowed the disease to spread, says the virus came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, but scientists reject that, AP reported.

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