A global team of virology experts, appointed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), arrived in Wuhan on Thursday, 14 January, to begin their investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, AFP reported.
The 10-member team must complete a mandatory two-week long quarantine in Wuhan before they begin their mission. They will also be required to take a throat swab test and an antibody test for COVID-19, Chinese state media CGTN reported.
China confirmed on Saturday that it will allow the entry of WHO team of experts to investigate the origins of COVID-19 and said that team would arrive at Wuhan on 14 January.
Prior to this, two members from the WHO team had earlier arrived in China but were denied entry by officials who claimed lack of visa clearance issues. One member turned back, and the other member waited in a third transition country till the visa was cleared, reported BBC.
Nations Call for Independent Probe
In May 2020, over 100 nations asked for an independent probe into how the virus transmitted to humans, for which WHO agreed to hold an inquiry. The meeting was agreed upon by China after months of negotiations.
The ten-member expert team was formed and it began coordinating this visit with Chinese officials since July 2020 to probe into the earliest cases of the virus, which was first detected in Wuhan in December 2019.
A report by AP said that the WHO team includes viral and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar, and Vietnam.
A government spokesperson said the team will ‘exchange views’ with their Chinese counterparts but did not specify whether they would be permitted to gather evidence.
In a statement to AFP, Peter Ben Embarek, team lead for the mission, warned that it ‘could be a very long journey before we get a full understanding of what happened’.
Various theories have been circulated during this time, including some directly by the Chinese government, who blame imports of tainted seafood. However, many virologists believe that a probable origin for investigation could be the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China's top virus research lab, which was researching genetic information of bat coronavirus after the SARS outbreak.
Despite varying claims, the team maintains they have no plans to confirm anything and will conduct rigorous scientific research to understand the origin of the virus, AP reported.
(With inputs from AP and AFP)