Expressing dismay over the failure of Chinese administration to grant visas, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China".
“I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials,” he said while addressing the media in Geneva.
“But I have been in contact with senior Chinese officials. And I have once again made made it clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team.”
The experts were expected to visit Wuhan, to look in the early cases of the pandemic and investigate how the disease was first contracted by humans.
“We are eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible,” he said.
Dr Michael Ryan, the emergencies chief at WHO, said it had operated on the understanding its team would begin the deployment from Tuesday and two members had begun their journey to China.
“We did not want to put people in the air unnecessarily if there wasn’t a guarantee of their arrival in China being successful,” said Ryan. “Dr Tedros has taken immediate action and has spoken with senior Chinese officials and has fully impressed upon them the absolute critical nature of this.”
“We hope that this is just a logistical and bureaucratic issue that can be resolved very quickly,” he added.
Hua Chunying, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, on Wednesday said, “Tracing the source [of the virus] is a complicated issue."
“To ensure that the international team’s work progresses smoothly, they must go through the necessary procedures,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Financial Times.
WHO has been under fire from the US and other western governments for its slow progress in probing the origins of the pandemic which has so far claimed 1.8 million lives globally.
President Donald Trump accused the WHO of being a “puppet of China” and threatened to suspend US funding to the global health agency.
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