WHO to visit Wuhan at start of probe into Covid-19 origins

WHO to visit Wuhan at start of probe into Covid-19 origins

Nurses assemble plastic face shields at a hospital designated for the coronavirus patients in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province, Picture: AP

World Health Organisation experts will visit the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019, at the start of their investigation into the origins of the pandemic, China has said.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the experts will arrive in Wuhan tomorrow.

Other details of their schedule have not been announced and the central government's National Health Commission offered no further information.

The visit has been expected for months.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed frustration last week that arrangements were taking so long to finalise.

After China announced the visit, Dr Tedros said the scientists, who come from several nations, will focus on how the coronavirus first jumped to people.

"Studies will begin in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the early cases," Dr Tedros said.

China has rejected calls for an independent investigation while strictly controlling all research into the origins of the coronavirus and promoting fringe theories that the virus may have actually been brought to China from outside.

The culture of secrecy is believed to have delayed warnings about the pandemic, blocked the sharing of information with WHO and hampered early testing. 

There was considerable frustration among WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus.

In Wuhan, 11 million people were placed under lockdown for 76 days last winter during the early days of the pandemic.

China largely brought the virus' local spread under control last spring, but is currently dealing with a new outbreak in the province of Hebei adjacent to Beijing.

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