WHO team arrives in Wuhan to investigate coronavirus origins
Published: 01:07 PM, 14 January 2021
A team of experts from the World Health Organization on Thursday arrived in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus was first detected in late 2019, to start a highly politicised probe into the origins of the coronavirus.
The 10-member team was approved by President Xi Jinping's government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the WHO Director-General.
The scientists must complete a two-week quarantine in Wuhan before starting their work. They are to start working with Chinese experts via video conference while in quarantine.
The team arrived at the Wuhan airport a little past 11 am on a bright-yellow Scoot jet and walked through a makeshift clear plastic tunnel into the airport. The researchers, who only wore face masks, were greeted by airport staff in full protective gear, complete with mask, goggles and full body suits.
The team members include virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.
Peter Ben Embarek, team lead for the mission, said the group would start with a two-week quarantine at a hotel due to China’s border requirements.
“And then after the two weeks, we would be able to move around and meet our Chinese counterparts in person and go to the different sites that we will want to visit,” he said.
He warned it “could be a very long journey before we get a full understanding of what happened”.
Beijing has argued that although Wuhan is where the first cluster of cases was detected, it is not necessarily where the virus originated.
“I don’t think we will have clear answers after this initial mission, but we will be on the way,” Embarek added.
“The idea is to advance a number of studies that were already designed and decided upon some months ago to get us a better understanding of what happened,” he said. - AP, AFP