Ten World Health Organization scientists will visit China from Thursday to probe the origins of Covid-19, authorities said Monday, more than a year after the pandemic began and amid accusations Beijing has tried to thwart the investigation.
The WHO team “will conduct joint research cooperation on the origins of Covid-19 with Chinese scientists”, the National Health Commission said in a statement that provided no further details.
A last-minute delay to the mission earlier this month earned China a rare rebuke from the head of the WHO.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very disappointed” China had not authorised the team’s entry – especially as two members were already en route.
But on Monday he tweeted his approval of China’s announcement on a “critical mission” to identify the origins of the virus and how it jumped to humans.
Beijing sought to downplay the tension, however, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying calling it a “misunderstanding”.
The WHO experts will have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival, but are expected later to visit Wuhan – the city where the deadly virus was first detected in late 2019.