WUHAN, CHINA (AFP) – A team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in Wuhan yesterday to probe the origins of the coronavirus more than a year after it emerged, as China reported its first death from Covid-19 in eight months.
The 10 scientists landed for their much-delayed mission, met by Chinese officials in hazmat suits and given throat swabs on arrival, and were whisked to a hotel where they must complete a two-week quarantine before starting their work.
The virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has since billowed out across the world killing nearly two million people so far, infecting tens of millions and eviscerating the global economy. The WHO said establishing the pathway of the virus from animals to humans is essential to preventing future outbreaks.
But despite painstaking months of negotiations over their remit, the team was blocked from arriving last week – a sign of the political sensitivity of a virus origin story muddied by recrimination between nations, conjecture and denials.
The trip comes as China moves to snuff out fresh clusters of the virus. More than 20 million people are under lockdown in the north of China and one province has declared an emergency.
China had largely brought the pandemic under control through strict lockdowns and mass testing, hailing its economic rebound as an indication of strong leadership by the authorities.