China says WHO team to probe COVID-19 origins will arrive Jan 14

China says WHO team to probe COVID-19 origins will arrive Jan 14

The first known outbreak was linked to a wet market in Wuhan, central China
The first known COVID-19 outbreak was linked to a wet market in Wuhan, central China. (Photo: AFP/Noel CELIS)

BEIJING: A World Health Organization (WHO) team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic will arrive in China on Jan 14, China's national health authority said on Monday (Jan 11).

Lack of authorisation from Beijing had delayed the arrival of the 10-strong team on a long-awaited mission to investigate early infections, in what China's foreign ministry called a "misunderstanding".

The National Health Commission, which announced the arrival date, delayed from its early January schedule, did not detail the team's itinerary, however.

The WHO team "will conduct joint research cooperation on the origins of COVID-19 with Chinese scientists", the commission said in a statement.

READ: WHO experts to wade into tricky territory in hunt for COVID-19's origins

The long-awaited mission - which has been under discussion since last year - is of great political significance at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated major countries worldwide, caused almost 2 million deaths and brought the global economy to a standstill.

China has been accused of a cover-up that delayed its initial response, allowing the virus to spread since it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late in 2019.

READ: WHO probe into Wuhan COVID-19 outbreak 'not about finding a guilty country'

The team of WHO experts will be expected to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in China, and are expected to visit Wuhan in the course of their trip.

The United States has called for a "transparent" WHO-led investigation and criticised its terms, which allowed Chinese scientists to do the first phase of preliminary research.

READ: WHO says it was first alerted to coronavirus by its office, not China

Ahead of the trip, Beijing has been seeking to shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began, with senior diplomat Wang Yi saying "more and more studies" showed it emerged in multiple regions.

While other countries continue to struggle with infection surges, China has aggressively doused flare-ups.

Sunday's 103 new cases were mainland China's biggest daily increase in more than five months, as new infections rise in the province of Hebei, surrounding the capital, Beijing.

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Source: Agencies/dv

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