On Thursday, a team of scientists from the World Health Organisation arrived in Wuhan to investigate the source of the deadly coronavirus pandemic that originated in December 2019 from the central Chinese city before engulfing the entire globe.
For the COVID-19 origin mission, the WHO experts arrived in Wuhan, Chinese official media announced. The squad, which was reportedly made up of ten experts, flew directly from Singapore.
According to the National Health Commission of China (NHC), before performing fieldwork, the WHO team would need to go through the relevant quarantine procedures needed under the country’s epidemic control measures. A 14-day quarantine period and the requisite COVID-19 tests were supposed to go through them.
On Wednesday, NHC officials told the media in Beijing that finding the source of the virus is a scientific issue, and they suggested similar visits to other countries to achieve this aim.
During their quarantine time, the WHO experts will interact with Chinese medical experts through video conferencing, an NHC official said.
The visit of the WHO team has become a bone of contention as Beijing, which challenges the commonly held view of the source of the virus in Wuhan, delayed granting it permission.
China proactively challenged the view that the fatal outbreak occurred in the Wuhan wet market, where live animals, birds and reptiles are sold and distributed to humans. Since early last year, the market has remained closed and locked.
Deputy Director of the Chinese CDC, Feng Zijian, said he had no answers as to what the intermediate host of the novel coronavirus was, or how the virus moved from animals to humans, and China’s medical experts will work closely with the team of WHO experts to try to test its source.
China has called for the international community’s joint study into this virus. Chinese experts will work closely with them to accomplish their work when the WHO team hits Wuhan, Feng said.
The World Health Assembly (WHA) — the governing body of the 194 WHO Member States — adopted a resolution in May last year to create an independent investigation to perform an ‘impartial, independent and thorough assessment’ of both the international response and that of the WHO. The WHO was also asked to study the “source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population.”
As China is witnessing a relapse of COVID-19 events, the WHO experts arrived in Wuhan. 138 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 were registered by the NHC on Thursday, of which 124 were transmitted locally and the rest arrived from outside the mainland.
Of the locally transmitted cases, 81 were registered in Hebei Province in northern China and 43 in Heilongjiang Province in northeast China, the commission said in its daily report.
On Wednesday, one disease-related death was reported in Hebei, with no new suspected cases reported. In order to avoid the spread of the virus, many cities with millions of residents in Hebei province, which borders Beijing, are under lockdown.
According to the NHC, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China reached 87,844 by Wednesday and 4,635 have died from the disease so far.
About 92,313,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease worldwide and more than 1,977,000 people have died, according to the coronavirus tracker from Johns Hopkins University.