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Thursday, January 14, 2021, 18:05
WHO team arrives in Wuhan for COVID-19 origin mission
By China Daily and Agencies
Thursday, January 14, 2021, 18:05 By China Daily and Agencies

A plane carrying experts from the World Health Organization arrives at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, Wuhan, Hubei province, on Jan 14, 2021. (PHOTO / CGTN)

An international expert team from the World Health Organization arrived in China on Thursday to conduct joint scientific research with Chinese scientists on the origin of the novel coronavirus.

Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s top expert on animal diseases that cross to other species, who went to China on a preliminary mission last July, is leading the 10 independent experts, a WHO spokesman said.

Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese biologist and part of the 10-member team, told Reuters that he did not expect any restrictions on the group’s work in China, but cautioned against finding firm answers.

The team will spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival and two more weeks interviewing people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market in Wuhan.

We are looking for the answers here that may save us in future - not culprits and not people to blame.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert

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The team would mainly stay in Wuhan, he told Reuters in an interview from Singapore on Wednesday.

“We are looking for the answers here that may save us in future - not culprits and not people to blame,” the WHO’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, told reporters this week, adding that the WHO was willing to go “anywhere and everywhere” to find out how the virus emerged.

Marion Koopmans, a virologist at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands and a member of the WHO-led team, said last month it was too soon to say whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus had jumped directly from bats to humans or had an intermediate animal host.

“At this stage what I think we need is a very open mind when trying to step back into the events that led eventually to this pandemic,” she told reporters.

READ MORE: WHO: Virus origin tracing is about scientific answers

China has attached high importance to tracing the origins of the novel coronavirus and supports cooperation between China and the WHO on the issue, Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of the commission, said at a news conference on Saturday.

China has had detailed discussion on the visit to Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, by WHO experts and agreement has been reached between the two sides. Preparations have been made for cooperation in scientific research during the visit in China, he said.

China hopes the cooperation can contribute to finding the origin of the novel coronavirus and improve knowledge of the virus, which is very important for the prevention and control of outbreaks of new infectious diseases in the future, he said.


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