‘No limit’ for WHO delegation on month-long mission to Wuhan, says team member By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Man wearing a mask standing near a street, nearly a year after the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Wuhan, Hubei

By John Geddie SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A global team of scientists led by the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the new coronavirus will spend about a month in the Chinese city of Wuhan, including two weeks in quarantine, said a member of the team on Wednesday. Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese biologist, told Reuters he expected no restrictions on the work of the 10-member team in China as they prepared to fly from Singapore to Wuhan on Thursday, where the first human cases were detected in late 2019. States, who accused China of having concealed the scope of its initial outbreak, and others called for a transparent investigation led by the WHO and criticized the terms under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of the investigation. “My understanding is that there is actually no limit to accessing the information we might need for the team,” Hung said, speaking via video call from a Singapore airport hotel before his morning flight. “We’ll see. We’re not in China yet.” Hung said the team had been having regular virtual meetings with Chinese virus researchers for the past few months before the trip. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said his organization hoped to work with China to identify the source of the virus. He previously said he was “very disappointed” when WHO experts were denied permission to enter earlier this month, forcing two team members to return. China said there had been a “misunderstanding”. After fifteen days of quarantining 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 that 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 through state media that the virus existed abroad before being discovered in Wuhan, citing the presence of coronavirus in imported frozen food packaging and scientific papers claiming it had been circulating in Europe in 2019. WHO has said yes. he is not looking for “culprits” and is willing to go “anywhere and everywhere” to find out how the virus came about. Peter Ben Embarek, WHO’s leading expert on animal diseases crossing the species barrier, who went to China on a preliminary mission last July, leads the delegation. “What we would like to do with the international team and counterparts in China is go back to the Wuhan environment, re-interview the initial cases in depth, try to find other cases that were not detected at that time and try to see if we can roll back history of the first cases, “Ben Embarek said in November. Hung said he expected the mission to reveal new details about the origins of a virus that has infected more than 91 million and killed nearly 2 million people worldwide, but cautioned against seeking firm answers. “We want to find something, find new information,” he said. “But personally, I don’t expect everything to be clear after this trip. But that’s really a necessary step forward.”