BEIJING (Reuters) – A World Health Organization (WHO) team of international experts investigating the origin of the novel coronavirus will arrive in the Chinese city of Wuhan from Singapore on Thursday, a Chinese official said.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said his organisation looked forward to working with China on the mission to identify the source of the virus and how it entered the human population.
He had previously said he was “very disappointed” when the experts were denied entry earlier in the month, forcing two members of the team to turn back. China said there had been a “misunderstanding”.
“According to the current plan, they will fly from Singapore to Wuhan on January 14,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
He did not respond to a question on whether the team would have to go into quarantine upon arrival and gave no further details on the mission’s itinerary.
The coronavirus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has since spread around the world, infecting more than 90,500,000 people and killing nearly 2 million.
Much remains unknown about its origins and China has been sensitive about suspicion of a cover-up that delayed its initial response and allowed the virus to spread.
Ahead of the team’s visit, China has been seeking to shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began, with senior diplomat Wang Yi saying “more and more studies” showed it emerged in multiple regions.
A health expert affiliated with the WHO said previously that expectations should be “very low” that the team would reach a conclusion from its trip to China.
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel)