‘Very disenchanted’: WHO’s COVID specialists blocked from China | Coronavirus pandemic Information
The international team is scheduled to travel to Wuhan to investigate the origins of the virus that took over the world in 2020.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says he is “very disappointed” that China has still not approved the accession of a team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus as some countries cope with the increasing exposure to it the coronavirus have to fight pandemic.
Two members of the 10-person international team had already started their trip to China when it emerged that they had not yet been granted entry, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at an online press conference in Geneva on Tuesday afternoon.
“Today we learned that Chinese officials have not yet completed the necessary permits for the team to arrive in China,” he said, noting that WHO, China and transit countries had worked together on the agreements.
“I contacted high-ranking Chinese officials and again made it clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team. I have been assured that China is speeding up the internal process for the earliest possible deployment. “
The WHO team of experts – led by WHO’s leading expert on animal diseases exceeding species boundaries – Peter Ben Embarek – is scheduled to travel to Wuhan, where the first cases of the coronavirus were reported in late 2019, for in-depth information. “Epidemiological, virological, serological tests” of humans and animals to find out where the virus may have come from.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit to Beijing in January 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic was first reported in Wuhan [File: Naohiko Hatta/EPA]Globally, 86.2 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 1,895,267 have died, although vaccine approval has raised hopes that the pandemic could be brought under control.
Of the two team members who had already started traveling, one had returned and the other is in a third country, said emergency chief Mike Ryan.
“We trust and hope that this is just a logistical and bureaucratic problem that can be resolved very quickly,” he said.
China has rejected criticism of its handling of the first few weeks of the outbreak from overseas governments or from its own citizens. Attempts have also been made to reshape the debate about the start of the pandemic. Senior diplomat Wang Yi said “more and more studies” show that it has occurred in multiple regions. Ryan previously described such claims as “highly speculative”.
China reported its first death from the coronavirus on January 11th last year [File: Aly Song/Reuters]The WHO has stated that, despite ongoing research, “very little is currently known about how, where and when the virus was circulated in Wuhan”. The first cases involved the now closed Huanan seafood market. The central Chinese city reported its first death from the disease on January 11 last year – a 61-year-old man who regularly shopped at the market.
The experts are expected to visit the site, although much of the evidence was likely lost when health officials sealed the market and dumped what was there. It is still unclear whether the market was a “source of contamination that acted as an amplifier for human-to-human transmission, or a combination of these factors,” the panel says.
The United States has called for a “transparent” investigation into the origins of the virus. Australia has also called for an independent investigation into the origins of the virus, which has sparked tension between the two countries.
China has largely recovered from the pandemic but continues to take tough measures to stamp out the virus.
On Wednesday, the authorities blocked sections of highways running through Hebei Province near Beijing and closed a major long-distance bus station in the provincial capital, Shijiazhuang.
Hebei was responsible for 20 of the 23 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases reported in mainland China on Jan. 5, more than the total of 19 cases in the province in the past three days.
The province was also responsible for 43 of the 64 new asymptomatic cases – patients who were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but showed no symptoms.
Since the coronavirus was first reported in China, around 86.2 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the infection, while 1.8 million have died [File: Mark Schiefelbein/AP]