‘China ready to work with WHO Covid-19 probe team’

Beijing: China is ready to receive a World Health Organization (WHO) expert team which would conduct investigations into the origins of the novel coronavirus, a senior health official said here Saturday.

China and the WHO have reached a consensus on specific arrangements of the investigation with four video conferences, Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the National Health Commission, told a press conference.

He added that Chinese experts were waiting for their WHO counterparts’ arrival.

Once the WHO experts complete their procedures and finalise the schedule, Chinese experts will go to Wuhan, where the virus originated in December 2019, with them to conduct the investigation, Zeng said.

He stressed that China’s position on the WHO investigation is positive, open and supportive, and the country hopes such joint efforts would help deepen the understanding of the virus and better prevent infectious diseases in the future.

Zeng’s announcement came after the WHO claimed earlier this week that a team had been denied entry to China.

The world body said that two members of the team were already en route, adding that the problem was a lack of visa clearances, the BBC reported.

On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he was “very disappointed” that China had not yet finalised the permissions for the team’s arrivals “given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute”.

In response however, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the BBC “there might be some misunderstanding” and “there’s no need to read too much into it”.

The WHO has been working to send a 10-person team of international experts to China and it was announced in December 2020 that the investigation would begin in January 2021.