A team of experts led by the World Health Organization who investigated the origins of COVID-19 on Friday visited a hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was one of the first to treat patients in the early days of the outbreak.
The hospital visit was the team’s first after two weeks in quarantine, and a WHO spokeswoman said the group’s contacts in Wuhan would be limited to visits to their Chinese hosts for health reasons.
“The team will go out, but they will be bused everywhere so they will not have contact with the community. They will only have contact with various people organized as part of the study,” said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris a briefing in Geneva on Friday.
After meeting with Chinese scientists earlier in the day, the team went to the Hubei Provincial Hospital for Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine.
Zhang Jixian, director of the hospital’s respiratory and critical care department, was quoted as the first in state media to cover the novel coronavirus after treating an elderly couple in late 2019 whose CT scans showed differences from typical pneumonia .
“Extremely important first site visit. We are at the hospital that treated some of the first known cases of COVID-19 and have met with the actual clinicians and staff who have done this work and had an open discussion on the details their work, “said Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO-led team, wrote on Twitter.
The team plans to visit laboratories, markets and hospitals during the remaining two weeks in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first identified in late 2019.
Although no exact itinerary has been announced, the team plans to visit the fish market at the center of the early outbreak as well as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, according to the WHO. One hypothesis rejected by China is that the outbreak was caused by a leak in the government laboratory.
The WHO-led investigation in Wuhan was plagued by delays, access concerns and dispute 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 criticized the first phase of research.
WHO has tried to meet expectations. “There are no guarantees of answers,” his emergency chief Mike Ryan said this month.
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”.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday that WHO and Chinese experts are working together to trace the origin of the virus, but stressed that the mission is not a probe.
“It’s part of global research, not an investigation,” Zhao said at a regular press conference in Beijing.
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.)