Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are due to arrive in China this week for a long-anticipated investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said on Monday.
The experts will arrive on Thursday and meet with Chinese counterparts, the National Health Commission said in a one-sentence statement that gave no other details.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the experts will travel to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.
Negotiations for the visit have long been underway. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed disappointment last week over delays, saying that members of the international scientific team departing from their home countries had already started on their trip as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China had approved the visit following consultations between the sides and called it an opportunity to “exchange views with Chinese scientists and medical experts on scientific cooperation on the tracing of the origin of the new coronavirus.”
“Along with continuous changes in the epidemic situation, our knowledge of the virus deepens, and more early cases are discovered,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing, adding that the search for the origin will likely involve “multiple countries and localities.”
China’s government has strictly controlled all research at home into the origins of the virus, based on a probe by an international news organization, while state-owned media have played up fringe theories that suggest the virus could have originated elsewhere.The investigation found that China’s government is handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to scientists researching the virus’ origins in southern China. But it is monitoring their findings and mandating that the publication of any data or research be approved by a new task force managed by China’s Cabinet, under direct orders from President Xi Jinping, according to internal documents obtained by the news organization. SOVEREIGNPH