WHO experts probing coronavirus origins to visit Wuhan: China
(Sourced from PTI)
The experts from World Health Organization will visit Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late-2019, at the start of their investigation into the origins of the pandemic, China said on Tuesday. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the experts will arrive in Wuhan on Thursday. The Central Government's National Health Commission offered no further information or details.
After China announced the visit on Monday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said, "The scientists who come from several nations will identify the potential source of the infection of the early cases and focus on how the coronavirus first jumped to people." Tedros had expressed frustration last week on arrangements taking so long to finalize as the visit had been expected for months.
Meanwhile, China has rejected calls for an independent investigation while strictly controlling all research into the origins of the coronavirus and promoting fringe theories that the virus may have actually been brought to China from outside. This secrecy is believed to have delayed warnings about the pandemic, blocked sharing of information with WHO, and hampered early testing, which caused considerable frustration among WHO officials.
The virus' origins have been the source of intense speculation, much of it centered around the likelihood that it was carried by bats and passed to humans through an intermediary species sold as food or medicine in traditional Chinese markets. Notably, China largely brought the virus' local spread under control last spring but is currently dealing with a new outbreak in the Hebei province.
Travel to and from three cities, including the provincial capital Shijiazhuang, Xingtai, and Langfang south of Beijing, has been suspended and residents of some communities have been told to stay home for the next week. Similar measures have been ordered around the country, particularly in Wuhan where 11 million people were placed under lockdown for 76 days last winter when the pandemic broke.
Hebei breakout has also delayed meetings of the provincial People's Congress and its advisory body that is usually conducted in February. It wasn't clear when the meetings would be held. Authorities say several dozen of the more than 300 confirmed cases reported this year in Shijiazhuang appear to be linked to wedding gatherings. China has reported a total of 87,591 cases, including 4,634 deaths.
Beijing reported a new case on Tuesday, putting more than a dozen communities and villages under lockdown, and one in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. The outbreak comes amid measures to curb the spread of the virus during next month's Lunar New Year holiday. Authorities have asked citizens not to travel, ordered schools to close a week early, and conducted testing on massive scales.