Following a year of negotiations, a team of independent experts set by the World Health Organization (WHO) finally landed in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday, January 14. The team is now tasked with probing into the origins of the lethal coronavirus infection that has killed nearly two billion people across the globe. The sensitive mission had repeatedly been subjected to delays and politics amid fears of Beijing attempting to whitewash in past.
Scientists suspect the virus to have jumped from bats to humans, most probably in China’s south west region. However, the Xi Jinping administration has dismissed the claim alleging that the virus entered China through meat imports. Additionally, many western leaders including Donald Trump have claimed that the virus was synthetically manufactured inside Wuhan laboratories.
The 10 member team consists of virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam. Their arrival in the Chinese city was confirmed by English language State broadcaster CGTN earlier today. All the members would undergo two-week quarantine as well as a throat swab test and an antibody test for COVID-19, according to a post on CGTN’s official Weibo account. They would work in coordination with Chinese scintist s via video conference during the isolation.
The research mission is a top priority for WHO, who has been accused of conspiring with China to hide information about the coronavirus. However, experts have reckoned that the mission was not about apportioning blame but of “reducing the risk.” Their remarks come after American President Donald Trump and his allied have notoriously termed coronavirus as the “China Virus.”
Despite the heat, Chinese authorities, the Wuhan Insitute of Virology (WIV) and Professor Shi Zhengli have angrily rejected all allegations of virus leak from the Wuhan lab. Scientists appointed by WHO were all set to arrive in Wuhan and inquire the origin of the pandemic that has caused more than a million deaths. In an email to the BBC, Wuhan lab scientist had assured that she had communicated with the UN health agency experts twice and added that, “I have personally and clearly expressed that I would welcome them to visit the WIV.”
(With inputs from AP)