China says WHO team to probe COVID-19 origins will arrive on Jan.14 - GulfToday

China says WHO team to probe COVID-19 origins will arrive on Jan.14


A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. File/Reuters

Gulf Today Report

Ten World Health Organization scientists will visit China from Thursday to probe the origins of Covid-19, Chinese authorities said on Monday.

More than a year after the pandemic began and amid accusations Beijing has tried to thwart the investigation, in what China’s foreign ministry called a “misunderstanding.”

This photo shows the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva. File photo

The long-awaited mission is of great political significance at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the world, caused almost two million deaths, and brought the global economy to a virtual standstill.

The WHO team "will conduct joint research cooperation on the origins of Covid-19 with Chinese scientists", the National Health Commission said in a statement that provided no further details.


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The National Health Commission, which announced the arrival date, delayed from its early January schedule, did not detail the team’s itinerary, however.

China has been accused of a cover-up that delayed its initial response, allowing the virus to spread since it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late in 2019.

A last-minute delay to the mission earlier this month earned China a rare rebuke from the head of the WHO.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was "very disappointed" China had not authorised the team's entry -- especially as two members were already en route.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a meeting. File photo

Beijing sought to downplay the tension, however, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying calling it a "misunderstanding".

The WHO experts will have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival, but are expected later to visit Wuhan -- the city where the deadly virus was first detected in late 2019.

The United States has called for a “transparent” WHO-led investigation and criticised its terms, which allowed Chinese scientists to do the first phase of preliminary research.

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 mainland China’s biggest daily increase in more than five months, as new infections rise in the province of Hebei, surrounding the capital, Beijing.

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