China to allow in US health experts as coronavirus shows no sign of slowing

China to allow in US health experts as coronavirus shows no sign of slowing

Security personnel wearing masks walk along the Financial Street in central Beijing
Security personnel wearing masks walk along the Financial Street in central Beijing, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, on Feb 3, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee) 

GENEVA: China has agreed to allow US health experts into the country as part of a World Health Organisation (WHO) effort to help fight the fast-spreading coronavirus, as the number of cases and deaths continued to mount.

A WHO spokesman said on Monday (Feb 3) that the WHO-led international team of experts could go to China as early as this week to investigate the coronavirus outbreak, as agreed between the WHO chief and Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

READ: China coronavirus death toll rises to 425

READ: China admits 'shortcomings' in virus response

The number of confirmed deaths from the outbreak in China spiked to 425, after authorities in Hubei province reported 64 new fatalities on Tuesday. 

The number of cases has also surpassed 20,000 in the country.

China accused the United States on Monday of whipping up panic over the fast-spreading coronavirus with travel restrictions and evacuations.

READ: China says US creating, spreading fear after virus outbreak

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week on return from Beijing that the international mission would be composed of WHO officials and possibly consultants.

Tedros, asked at the time specifically about US Health Secretary Alex Azar publicly calling for US officials to be part of a WHO-led mission, said that countries should make "bilateral arrangements".

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic, in response to a Reuters query on Monday, said: "A multidisciplinary mission of international experts to China will take place, possibly this week. Both China and WHO agreed on this mission.

"The mission is an international technical mission led by WHO. As such, CDC could be part of it," he said, referring to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

READ: Wuhan virus: What we know about the fatalities

READ: Chinese markets plunge US$420 billion as novel coronavirus death toll rises

The experts would have a range of specialisations, including epidemiology, laboratories, research and development, and would work with Chinese counterparts to help guide global response efforts, he said.

Chen Xu, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told a news briefing last Friday where he was asked about any objection to US participation, said: "We are not intentionally denying any kind of help from any particular country." 

China on Monday accused the United States of spreading fear by pulling its nationals out and restricting travel instead of offering significant aid.

Washington has "unceasingly manufactured and spread panic", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

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Source: Reuters/ad