WHO team visits Wuhan hospital that had early virus patients
A World Health Organization team visited a hospital on Friday where China says the first COVID-19 patients were treated more than a year ago as part of the experts' long-awaited fact-finding mission on the origins of COVID-19. WHO team members and Chinese officials earlier had their first in-person meetings at a hotel ahead of field visits in and around Wuhan in the coming days.
Team also visited second Wuhan hospital in virus investigation
The WHO team members also visited another Wuhan hospital that had treated early COVID-19 patients on their second full day of work on Saturday. Jinyantan Hospital was one of the city's first to deal with patients in early 2020 suffering from a then-unknown virus and is a key part of the epidemiological history of the disease.
First face-to-face meeting with our colleagues: Dutch virologist
"First face-to-face meeting with our colleagues. Correction: facemask to facemask given the medical restrictions," Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans tweeted in the morning. She said they were discussing their program of visits and Chinese team leader Professor Wannian was joking about some technical glitches, an apparent reference to top Chinese epidemiologist Liang Wannian, who has been a leader of China's response team.
Here is Marion Koopmans's tweet
First face to face meeting with our colleagues. Correction: facemask to facemask given the medical restrictions. Discussing our visiting program. China teamleader prof Wannian joking about some technical glitches. Nice to see our colleagues after lengthy zoom meetings.— Marion Koopmans (@MarionKoopmans) January 29, 2021
Visiting researchers held video meetings during 14-day quarantine period
The visiting researchers held video meetings during 14 days of quarantine after their arrival in China. They came out of quarantine on Thursday. Members of the team left the hotel by car, and a short time later entered the gates of the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine.
First reported cases were known as pneumonia of unknown origin
According to China's official account of its response to the initial outbreak, Dr. Zhang Jixian first reported cases of what was then known as pneumonia of unknown origin at the hospital on December 27, 2019.
Team plans to visit markets linked to first cases
WHO had said earlier on Twitter that the team requested detailed underlying data and planned to speak with early responders and some of the first COVID-19 patients. It also planned to visit markets such as the Huanan Seafood Market linked to many of the first cases, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and laboratories at facilities such as the Wuhan Center for Disease Control.
Confirmation of origins of COVID-19 is likely to take years
"All hypotheses are on the table as the team follows the science in their work to understand the origins of the COVID-19 virus," WHO tweeted. However, confirmation of the origins of the virus is likely to take years. Pinning down an outbreak's animal source typically requires exhaustive research, including taking animal samples, genetic analysis, and epidemiological studies.
Chinese Government has promoted theories about COVID-19
The Chinese Government has promoted theories, with little evidence, that the outbreak might have started with imports of frozen seafood tainted with the virus, a notion roundly rejected by international scientists and agencies. One possibility is that a wildlife poacher might have passed the virus to traders who carried it to Wuhan. A possible focus for investigators is the virology institute in the city.
First clusters of COVID-19 detected in Wuhan in late 2019
The first clusters of COVID-19 were detected in Wuhan in late 2019. China has since reported more than 89,000 cases and 4,600 deaths, with new cases largely concentrated in its frigid northeast, where local lockdowns and travel restrictions are being imposed to contain the outbreaks.