WHO team leaves quarantine in Wuhan to begin coronavirus origins study
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 28/01/2021
A World Health Organisation-led team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic is due to begin fieldwork in Wuhan after completing two weeks of quarantine.
The virus first emerged in the Chinese city in late 2019 and the United States has accused China of hiding the extent of the outbreak.
The mission has been plagued by delays, concerns over access and bickering between China and the US, which has criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.
Sky’s Tom Cheshire, in Wuhan, said investigations were due to start properly on Friday.
He explained the WHO has said it was unlikely it would find an origin of the disease on this trip but that it was a “crucial starting point” and “the best place to look”.
He said the team was facing some restrictions though, adding: “We don’t know if they’re going to have the freedom to move around. We don’t know if they’ll visit the Institute of Virology, for instance.
“A lot depends on what Chinese scientists will be telling them because they have been doing their own investigations. Will they share that data? How useful will that data be?”
Cheshire said the WHO team had a “tough” job trying to work with Chinese authorities “who may not want to show them everything”.
The team were seen leaving their quarantine hotel to be transported by bus to another hotel where they will remain for the investigation.
A relative of a coronavirus victim in China is demanding to meet the WHO team, saying it should speak with affected families who allege they are being muffled by the Chinese government.
Zhang Hai’s father died of COVID-19 in February 2020. He has been organising relatives of victims to demand accountability from officials.
Mr Zhang says he is worried the WHO probe might be used to provide cover for alleged Chinese mistakes in the early days of the outbreak.
The WHO says the visit is a scientific mission to investigate the origins of the virus, not an effort to assign blame.
On Monday, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the US, told the World Economic Forum the origins of the virus were still unknown, “a big black box, which is awful”.
Keiji Fukuda, a public health expert at the University of Hong Kong and a former WHO official said “it all comes down to what will the team have access to. Will they really be able to ask the questions that they want to ask?”.
Over three nights Sky News will host a series of special programmes examining the UK’s response to the pandemic.
Watch COVID Crisis: Learning the Lessons at 8pm on 9, 10 and 11 February
© Sky News 2020