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18 Dec, 2020 20:18

WHO sending Covid-hunting team to Wuhan, China in January to probe origins of pandemic

WHO sending Covid-hunting team to Wuhan, China in January to probe origins of pandemic

Investigators from the World Health Organization (WHO) will head to China in January in a bid to unearth the origins of the coronavirus, officials said on Friday, more than a year after the first infections were reported there.

The United Nations health agency will send an international team of up to 15 scientists to Wuhan, the Chinese city where Covid-19 is first thought to have spread from a wet market.

The WHO’s health emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the researchers would travel to China in the first week of January, visiting Wuhan, which he said was the “purpose of the mission,” as well as the capital Beijing.

Speaking during a news briefing, he also denied claims that the team would be “supervised” by Beijing, saying that the WHO scientists would work with their Chinese colleagues according to their usual protocols. 

Also on rt.com Coronavirus origins: WHO says Beijing ‘welcomes’ investigators’ trip to China

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday that the country would work with the WHO to avoid similar public health crises in the future, although he did not comment specifically on the trip.

“We have recently read many reports on the virus breaking out in multiple places worldwide last year,” he said. “It proves again that tracing the origin of the novel coronavirus is a scientific task that must be taken very seriously.” 

Since the early months of the pandemic, US President Donald Trump accused China of concealing the outbreak of Covid-19, which he has often referred to as the “Chinese virus.” 

The origins of the novel coronavirus are yet to be determined. Last month researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences claimed in a scientific paper that it had spread in India months before being discovered in Wuhan. 

Also on rt.com Chinese academics say coronavirus spread in India MONTHS before Wuhan outbreak

A French doctor said in May that one of his patients, treated for suspected pneumonia in December 2019, actually had the coronavirus, while researchers at the University of Barcelona in Spain said during the summer that they found coronavirus traces in samples of city wastewater dating back to March 2019. 

Globally there have been 75.3 million cases of Covid-19, and more than 1.6 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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