An international team from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is looking into the origin of the new coronavirus will travel to Wuhan, China, without supervision from Beijing, a senior WHO official said on Friday.
Last week, WHO had announced that the international team would go to China in January, although it did not give any details on the exact date of the mission and the locations to be visited.
On Friday, WHO Emergencies Chief Michael Ryan said “the team will visit Wuhan;” the city where the Covid-19 outbreak was first reported, and that this was the purpose of the mission.
Ryan told journalists the date of the mission had not yet been set since visas and flights were still being arranged, but that the team was expected to leave “in the first week of January.” The experts will be quarantined on their arrival and will pass through Beijing as a “courtesy” to the Chinese government, he said.
“The purpose of the mission is to go to the original point at which human cases were detected, and we fully expect to do that,” the WHO official explained.
Scientists generally believe the original host of the virus was a bat, but no-one knows which other animal served as an intermediary in transmitting it to humans.
The WHO mission is made up of 10 scientists – from Australia, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, USA and Vietnam – renowned in their respective areas of competence. Their mission includes determining how the virus was transmitted to humans.
Responding to a journalist’s question, Ryan emphasised that the team was a WHO team “of international experts with international renown,” adding that they “will work with our Chinese colleagues” and “will not be, as you say, supervised by Chinese officials.”
In the meantime, the experts have been able to hold many video-teleconference meetings since late October with their Chinese colleagues.
The government of the United States – the country that has the world’s highest Covid -19 death toll, with over 314,000 death – has publicly accused Beijing of hiding things. Additionally, the Trump administration has also accused the WHO of bending over backwards to please the Chinese authorities.