A two-member advance team of the World Health Organization (WHO) dispatched to Wuhan to probe the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak will undertake preliminary work with local scientists, the agency’s emergencies chief has said.
The team is currently under mandatory quarantine, the WHO’s Mike Ryan said at a press briefing on Monday. After their isolation period ends, the investigators will begin their work alongside their Chinese colleagues. The WHO has previously said its team will focus only on uncovering the “zoonotic source” of the disease.
The decision to send a special team to Wuhan, believed to be the source of the global pandemic raging for over half a year, was taken by the health watchdog earlier this month. The disease has so far claimed the lives of more than 560,000 people worldwide, and over 13 million have been infected.
As well as seriously impacting global healthcare and national economies, the ongoing outbreak has heavily impacted the WHO itself, with the organization having been criticized for not labeling the novel coronavirus a pandemic much sooner. Both the health body and China’s authorities have denied accusations that they were involved in any cover-up of Covid-19, insisting they’ve been as transparent as possible. Washington has been particularly vocal in its accusations, and even went as far as to sever all ties with the organization in late May.
The pandemic also sparked rumors that the virus was man-made, with some – including US President Donald Trump – claiming it may have been released by a laboratory in Wuhan. The latest batch of such allegations came from Trump’s ex-advisor Steve Bannon, who claimed several Chinese “virus experts” have defected to the West and are set to go public.
No actual evidence has emerged to back up the allegations of the virus being a man-made pathogen. On the contrary, several scientific studies have raised questions about the presumption Covid-19 originated in China in late 2019. Scientists from Italy and Spain have discovered traces of coronavirus in sewage samples taken well before the ‘original’ Wuhan outbreak occurred.
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