A WHO team of “international experts” to visit China this week to carry out a research on the origins of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the cause of the covid-19 pandemic, confirmed this Monday the National Health Commission of the Asian country.
In a brief statement published on its website, the agency only indicates that WHO technicians will arrive next Thursday, January 14, to China, and that “cooperate” with local scientists in these investigations.
The Commission does not specify the places to which the experts will travel, whose possible arrival in China caused controversy in recent weeks after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus claimed to be “very disappointed” by the obstacles that Beijing was putting to the mission, although the Chinese authorities denied they were impeding it.
Several members of the team had started their trips to China in the first days of the year, but Tedros regretted that Beijing had not “finalized the necessary permits” for access to the Asian country, which registered the first worldwide outbreak of covid in the central-eastern city of Wuhan during the last days of December 2019. Scientists who could not access China returned to their countries of origin until to resolve the situation.
In response, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called the situation a “misunderstanding”, assuring last week that “There has never been any problem in cooperation” with WHO and that the organization knew “perfectly” that it was not just a “visa problem”, to which he added that both parties were continuing to prepare the visit and negotiate its dates.
The Ethiopian had continually praised Beijing for his collaboration in the pandemic throughout 2020, something that earned him harsh criticism in the West, especially from the United States, whose government has repeatedly accused China of being the culprit of the global spread of the coronavirus.
This mission, a “priority” for WHO, would be made up of scientists from various international organizations from the USA, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Vietnam, Germany and Qatar.
The objective is find the possible animal origin of SARS-CoV-2 and its transmission channels to the human being; Although the initial theory is that it spread through a market for fresh products and animals in Wuhan, the official Chinese press has promoted an alternative narrative in recent months that assures that this outbreak could be due to frozen food from other countries.
Although WHO experts already visited China for this purpose in February and July last year – without too many details being revealed – the organization of this mission has been delayed for months and has been surrounded by secrecy, both on the part of that body and from the Chinese authorities.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.