Newsdeck

COVID-19

WHO advance team heads to China to set up probe into coronavirus origin

WHO advance team heads to China to set up probe into coronavirus origin
The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020 (reissued 07 July 2020). EPA-EFE/MARTIAL TREZZINI

GENEVA, July 10 (Reuters) - A two-member advance team of World Health Organization (WHO) experts has left for China to organise an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus behind a pandemic that has killed more than 550,000 people globally, the U.N. agency said on Friday.

The virus is believed to have emerged in a wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year after jumping the species barrier from the animal kingdom to infect humans.

The two WHO experts, specialists in animal health and epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to determine the scope and itinerary of the investigation, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said, declining to name them.

“We know it’s very, very similar to the virus in the bat, but did it go through an intermediate species? This is a question we all need answered,” Harris told a news briefing.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later told a news conference: “Two WHO experts are currently en route to China to meet with fellow scientists and learn about the progress made in understanding the animal reservoir for COVID-19 and how the disease jumped between animals and humans.”

He added, “This will help lay the groundwork for the WHO-led international mission into the origins.”

COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

The United States, the WHO’s largest WHO donor, this week notified the agency that it was withdrawing in a year’s time after accusing it of being too close to China and not doing enough to question Beijing’s actions at the start of the crisis.

“We view the scientific investigation as a necessary step to having a complete and transparent understanding of how this virus has spread throughout the world,” Andrew Bremberg, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said in a statement to Reuters.

“We expect that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) will offer the team of scientists full access to data, samples, and localities, and look forward to its timely report,” Bremberg said.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the pathogen may have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, although they have presented no evidence for this and China has denied it. Scientists and U.S. intelligence agencies have said it emerged in nature. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Gareth Jones and Will Dunham)

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.