A World Health Organization (WHO)-led international mission is scheduled to go to China in the first week of January to investigate the source of the COVID-19 pandemic virus, a member and diplomats told media on Wednesday.
The United States, which accused China of concealing the extent of the outbreak, called for a WHO-led ‘transparent’ investigation and criticized its terms, enabling Chinese scientists to conduct the first phase of preliminary research.
On Dec. 31, China announced the first cases of pneumonia of unknown cause to the WHO in Wuhan, central China, and closed a market where it is suspected that the novel coronavirus has emerged.
In May, health ministers called upon WHO to identify the origins of the virus and how it crossed the boundary of the organisms.
Plans And Decisions By WHO:
Now a team of 12-15 international experts by WHO is finally planning to go to Wuhan to review the evidence and expand on their initial studies, including human and animal samples collected by Chinese researchers.
Thea Fischer, a Danish member, said that the team will depart for a six-week mission “just after New Year’s,” with a two-week quarantine on arrival.
“Phase 1 was supposed to be completed by now, according to the terms of reference, and we should have some results. If that’s what we get when we come to China…that would be fantastic. Then we are already in phase 2,” she told reporters.
“Reporters were told on Tuesday by Keith Hamilton, an expert at the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) who will take part: “I expect the mission will take place very soon.
In an emailed response to the inquiry, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the international team was working on logistical plans to fly to China as soon as possible. In January,” he said, “We hope the team will be able to fly.
A Western diplomat said the team was scheduled to depart at the beginning of January, ahead of the opening of the WHO Executive Board on Jan. 18, adding: “There is strong pressure on China and the WHO.”
Hamilton said that in a horseshoe bat, a similar but not identical virus was found, suggesting that it was first transmitted before infecting humans to an animal, or intermediate host.
“It’s hard when we’re doing animal surveillance, rather like looking for a needle in a haystack,” he said.
The WHO’s senior expert on animal diseases, Peter Ben Embarek, said last month that the mission would like to consult market staff about how they became infected with the virus.