WHO's Covid fact-finding mission in China gives first report
The World Health Organization on Tuesday was providing the first details of its fact-finding mission to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first coronavirus cases were identified.
A member of the WHO expert team said the Chinese side granted full access to all sites and personnel they requested — a level of openness that even he hadn’t expected, the Associated Press reported.
Peter Daszak said team members had submitted a deeply considered list of places and people to include in their investigation and that no objections were raised.
“We were asked where we wanted to go. We gave our hosts a list … and you can see from where we’ve been, we’ve been to all the key places,” Daszak said.
China has faced heavy criticism for allegedly downplaying the severity of the initial outbreak of the mysterious, pneumonia-like illness in late December 2019, and for not acting quickly enough to alert the WHO of evidence of human-to-human transmission.
The WHO’s team landed in Wuhan last month, more than a year after Covid-19 was first detected there. The long-awaited trip is part of what will be a lengthy process of piecing together the virus’s origin to answer key questions about the pathogen and how to prevent similar — and possibly worse — future outbreaks.
Two members of the 15-strong WHO delegation of scientists were at first denied entry to China and kept in Singapore after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies, but were later released.
The team arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 14 and after two weeks of quarantine, visited key sites such as the Huanan seafood market, which was linked to an early cluster of infections, as well as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been involved in coronavirus research.
The first cases of a pneumonia-like illness were reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city of some 11 million people on the Yangtze River in central Hubei province.
The suspicion about China’s handling of the outbreak came after its problematic response to the 2003 SARS pandemic, when it was found that Chinese officials had suppressed and deliberately withheld information from the public. The WHO has praised China early for its efforts to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, but questions still remain about where and how the pathogen emerged.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report