China allows WHO investigation into Covid origins

The news comes as Beijing goes into lockdown 

Eleanor Sly@eleanor_sly
Monday 11 January 2021 16:47
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<p>The Chinese Foreign Ministry is yet to give details of an itinerary for the visit&nbsp;</p>

The Chinese Foreign Ministry is yet to give details of an itinerary for the visit 

Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) will arrive in China this week to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities in China have announced.

This comes exactly a year since the first recorded death from Covid-19 of a 61-year-old man who was a regular customer to the wet food market in Wuhan, China.

The announcement from China’s National Health Commission said experts would arrive for a meeting Thursday. No other details or itinerary have been given, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry saying the country was still working on “necessary procedures and relevant concrete plans".

A lack of authorisation from Beijing delayed the start of the investigation which was meant to begin last week. Several members of the international scientific team had already begun their trip when Chinese authorities delayed its authorisation.

The WHO has been negotiating the visit for almost a year and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO chief, welcomed news that an investigation was underway.

The director general of the WHO wrote on Twitter: “We look forward to working closely with our (Chinese) counterparts on this critical mission to identify the virus source & its route of introduction to the human population.”

A health expert who is affiliated with the WHO, has said that expectations on the team reaching a conclusion about the virus’ origins from the trip should be set “very low.”

The Chinese government has so far controlled all research at home into the virus’ origins. Reports from an investigation by Associated Press have said that Chinese state-owned media had suggested the virus could have originated from somewhere else.  

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the UN, told reporters at UN headquarters in New York that the US secretary-general Antonio Guterres "is fully supportive of Dr Tedros's and WHO's efforts to get a team in there".

Ms Dujarric added: "it's very important that as the WHO is in the lead in fighting the pandemic, that it also has a leading role in trying to look back at the roots of this pandemic so we can be better prepared for the next one."

The news comes as half a million people have been put into a lockdown in Beijing.China recorded 103 cases of the virus Monday, the highest daily rise in over five months.

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