The World Health Organization (WHO) team of 13 experts has left the Quarantine today to begin their field work and research on origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan, two weeks after arriving in the Chinese city where the virus emerged in late 2019.
Team’s arrival was delayed due to concerns over access and terms of reference of research which saw bickering between US and China. Over the past two weeks, the team has been interacting with each other and Chinese scientists through video calls.
The WHO has tried to manage the expectations from the investigation, stressing that it is not about apportioning blame, but about understanding how the virus made the jump to humans and finding ways to prevent the emergence of similar pathogens.
Several countries, most vocally the United States and Australia, have accused Beijing of downplaying the outbreak’s severity during its early stages. WHO was also severely criticized by the then-US President Donald Trump for behaving pro-China.
China has been pushing a narrative that Covid19 virus existed abroad before it was discovered in Wuhan, with state media citing the presence of the virus on imported frozen food packaging and advancing alternate theories about the virus origin. In Geneva last week, the head of the US delegation to WHO called on China to allow the team in Wuhan access to “care givers, former patients and lab workers,” and to share all scientific studies into animal, human and environmental samples taken from a market in Wuhan.
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