People receive vaccines against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a temporary vaccination centre in Beijing. AFP
Gulf Today Report
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing on Friday he expects to fix travel dates as soon as next week for a long-awaited mission to China to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus.
Tedros had said earlier this week he was "very disappointed" that China had still not authorised the entry of a team of international experts to probe early cases of COVID-19.
The virus is believed to have first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. It has since spread globally, infecting nearly 88 million people and killing around 1.9 million, Reuters calculations show.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses a press conference. File photo
Meanwhile, China confirmed on Saturday that preparations were still ongoing for a World Health Organization mission to Wuhan to investigate the origins of Covid-19, following a rare rebuke from the UN body over a delay to the long-planned trip.
The comments came after the WHO chief said on Tuesday he was “very disappointed” that Beijing had yet to finalise permission even as the team of experts had begun travelling to China to explore the beginnings of the virus, which first emerged in late 2019 in the central city.
On Saturday, National Health Commission vice minister Zeng Yixin told reporters: “The specific time is being determined, and we are ready here.”
“As long as these experts complete the procedures and confirm their schedule, we will go to Wuhan together to carry out investigations,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Chinese authorities had refused to confirm details of the visit, a sign of the enduring sensitivity of the mission — which has been beset with delays and politics.
The WHO previously said China had granted permission for a visit by a 10-person team.
This photo shows the logo of World Health Organization.
“We are currently waiting for WHO’s experts to arrive, and have arranged for relevant expert groups to receive them,” Zeng added.
He expressed hope the WHO investigations could further understanding on the origins of the coronavirus.
Asked about the effectiveness of vaccination against a coronavirus strain found in Britain that appeared to be more infectious, Zeng added: “Our vaccine has the same neutralising ability against such a mutant strain.”
“It seems that the mutation speed of the new coronavirus is still within an acceptable range, and the mutation speed is not particularly fast,” he said.
The head of the World Health Organization-led team in the central Chinese city of Wuhan probing the origins of COVID-19 said on Tuesday that cold chain transmission of the virus is a possibility and warrants further investigation.
The group was driven to the Jinyintan Hospital, one of the city’s first to deal with patients in early 2020 suffering from a then-unknown virus, as the horrors of the virus emerged in the central Chinese city.
The mission, delayed by China and weighed down by political baggage, has a remit to explore how the virus jumped from animal to human. Experts say the Huanan market still plays a role in tracing the origins of the virus, since the first cluster of cases was identified there.
Most scientists reject the hypothesis, but some speculate that a virus captured from the wild could have figured in experiments at the lab to test the risks of a human spillover and then escaped via an infected staff member.
The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, (Seha), the UAE’s largest healthcare network, successfully treated 17-month-old Emirati baby Afra, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
An African gang of eight members was arrested and prosecuted by the Dubai Public Prosecution on robbery charges. The gang had mugged an Asian bank customer of Dhs190,000 in Dubai.
A 52-year-old European manager was trialed by the Dubai Public Prosecution for demanding a Dhs530,000 bribe from his Dubai company in order to perform work tasks.