A team of experts led by the World Health Organization, who are investigating the causes of the COVID-19 pandemic, met with Chinese scientists on Friday. WHO said the group plans to visit laboratories, markets and hospitals in Wuhan.
On Thursday, the team completed two weeks of quarantine after arriving in China and moved to a lakeside hotel in the central Chinese city, where the deadly virus emerged in late 2019.
“First personal meeting with our colleagues. Correction: face mask to face mask in view of the medical restrictions. Discussion of our visit program,” tweeted Marion Koopmans, virologist at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, on Friday.
“China’s team leader Prof. Wannian jokes about some technical problems. Nice to see our colleagues after long zoom meetings,” she said.
The group is expected to spend another two weeks in China visiting the fish market at the center of the early outbreak. It will also visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology. One hypothesis rejected by China is that the outbreak was caused by a leak in the government laboratory.
WHO has tried to meet expectations. “There are no guarantees of answers,” said his emergency chief Mike Ryan earlier this month.
The mission was plagued by delays, access concerns and disputes between China and the United States, who accused China of hiding the scale of the initial outbreak and criticized the terms of the visit under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of the research.
“It is important to remember that the success of this mission and tracing 100% depends on access to the relevant sources,” Thea Fischer, a Danish member of the team, told Reuters on Thursday.
“No matter how competent we are, how hard we work and how many stones we try to turn, this can only be possible with the support of China,” she said.
The origin of COVID-19 has been heavily politicized.
The investigation team was due to arrive in Wuhan in early January, and the delay in the visit to China was rarely publicly criticized by the WHO chief, whom former US President Donald Trump described as “China-centered”.
China pushed the idea that the virus existed overseas before it was discovered in Wuhan. State media cited the presence of the virus on imported freezer packs and scientific papers that it had spread in Europe in 2019.
China’s State Department has also hinted that the sudden closure of a U.S. Army laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland in July 2019 was linked to the pandemic.
“In the early stages in China, it was a burden, especially for the Wuhan people, when everyone referred to it as the Wuhan virus, which was humiliating,” said Yang You, a 30-year-old Wuhan resident. “If it could be clearly traced back to the source, I think it could erase either China or Wuhan’s name.”
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)