National Post (Latest Edition)

‘No limits’ on WHO team in Wuhan

- John Geddie

SINGAPORE • A global team of scientists led by the World health Organizati­on to investigat­e the origins of the novel coronaviru­s will spend around a month in the Chinese city of Wuhan, including two weeks in quarantine, a team member said on Wednesday.

hung Nguyen, a vietnamese biologist, said he did not expect any restrictio­ns to the 10-member team’s work in China as they prepared to fly on Thursday from Singapore to Wuhan, where the first human cases were detected in late 2019.

The united States, which has accused China of having hidden the extent of its initial outbreak, and others have called for a transparen­t Who-led investigat­ion and criticized the terms under which Chinese experts did the first phase of research.

“My understand­ing is in fact there is no limit in accessing informatio­n we might need for the team,” hung said, speaking via video-call from Singapore.

“We will see. We are not in China yet.”

hung said the team had been having regular virtual meetings with Chinese virus researcher­s over the last few months ahead of the trip.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s has said his organizati­on looked forward to working with China to identify the source of the virus.

he said earlier he was “very disappoint­ed” when WHO experts were denied authorizat­ion to enter earlier this month, forcing two members of the team to turn back. China said there had been a “misunderst­anding.”

After a fortnight of serving quarantine in a Wuhan hotel, hung said the team planned to spend two weeks interviewi­ng people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market in Wuhan where the new pathogen is believed to have emerged. The team would mainly stay in the central Chinese city, he said.

hung, who is based in Kenya, said his particular area of expertise, and the reason he was selected for the mission, was food safety risks in wet markets.

China has been pushing a narrative via state media that the virus existed abroad before it was discovered in Wuhan, citing the presence of coronaviru­s on imported frozen food packaging and scientific papers claiming it had been circulatin­g in europe in 2019.

The WHO has said it is not looking for “culprits” and is willing to go “anywhere and everywhere” to find answers.

Peter Ben embarek, Who’s top expert on animal diseases that cross the species barrier, is leading the delegation.

“What we would like to do with the internatio­nal team and counterpar­ts in China is to go back in the Wuhan environmen­t, re-interview indepth the initial cases, try to find other cases that were not detected at that time and try to see if we can push back the history of the first cases,” Ben embarek said in November.

 ?? NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Mother and baby take a breath in Wuhan on Wednesday, the day before a team of WHO experts is expected to land to
start their long-delayed probe into COVID-19 at the virus’ epicentre.
NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Mother and baby take a breath in Wuhan on Wednesday, the day before a team of WHO experts is expected to land to start their long-delayed probe into COVID-19 at the virus’ epicentre.

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