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The WHO investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in China can begin: Two weeks after their arrival in Wuhan, the researchers ended their quarantine and left the hotel. The international team of experts who, on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) in China after the Research into the origin of the coronavirus can start work two weeks after arrival. The researchers left their hotel and got on a bus. They had previously completed a 14-day quarantine. The team will start its investigation on Friday, reported the Chinese state television.
The 13 experts want to find out where the new Sars-CoV-2 virus first appeared and where it came from. The delegation is led by Peter Ben Embarek, an expert on animal diseases that spread to other species. Because of genetic similarities, it is assumed that the pathogen originally came from bats and may have spread to humans via another animal as an intermediate host.
The team plans to do interviews and visit hospitals and the market where infections were first discovered. Traces of the virus were found especially at the booths of the wildlife traders. However, there were also infections that could not be traced back to the market.
A first known source of infection at the end of 2019
The world’s first source of infection for the novel pathogen was identified in Wuhan at the end of 2019. The WHO operation in the metropolis is politically charged because China fears it will be denounced as the culprit for the pandemic. An open question is where the researchers will be allowed to go and with whom they will be allowed to speak.
For months, China has also been spreading doubts as to whether the virus even originated in the country. Reference is made to unconfirmed reports that possible infections may have existed in other countries before. A foreign office spokesman urged the WHO experts to travel to other countries. China’s authorities and state media are also increasingly spreading the thesis that the virus could have been introduced into the country via frozen food.
Warning of expectations that are too high
The WHO investigation, which was only made possible after a long tug of war, is now being carried out together with the Chinese side. As in the previous months, the experts held video conferences with their Chinese counterparts over the two weeks from the hotel.
Participants downplayed expectations. The main thing is to look in cooperation with the Chinese colleagues to see which traces could still be followed, it said. The trip also only serves to see in a first phase what research is already going on and what data is available. Then a plan should be made for the second phase.
Internationally, the leadership in Beijing is required to enable a transparent investigation. The US in particular has accused China of covering up the extent of the first outbreak and thus contributing to the global spread of the virus. It is also criticized that Chinese experts carried out the first phase of the investigation. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gheybreyesus was also “very disappointed” because the entry permit for the team for the long-awaited mission had been delayed.