International

China rebuffs WHO claims over coronavirus mission

The WHO had said that two of their experts had been denied entry to China. Now Beijing has hit back; claiming details of the Covid-19 fact-finding mission were still being finalized.

China rebuffed claims by the World Health Organization on Wednesday that one of its teams sent to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic had been denied entry to the country:

Officials at the Geneva-based organization said on Tuesday two members were already on their way but could not enter due to a lack of visa clearances.

The Chinese government countered that the details of the visit and the dates had not yet been confirmed.

‘Both sides in close communication’

China’s position on the hunt for the origins of the pandemic “has always been open and responsible,” according to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. 

“We need to carry out the necessary procedures and relevant concrete plans. Currently, both sides are still in negotiations on this,” Hua Chunying said. “I understand that it’s not just a visa problem and the actual date and itinerary. Both sides are still in close communication.”

WHO investigates origin of pandemic

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that he was “very disappointed” China had not yet finalized the permissions needed for the team’s arrivals.

Beijing agreed to the probe in December after months of difficult talks with the UN health body. The virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019, with the initial outbreak linked to a market in the city.

The WHO plans to dispatch a 10-person team of experts to get to the bottom of the virus’s origins and exactly how it first crossed over to humans.

Reuters news agency quoted WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan as saying two had been denied entry already. He said one had turned back and one was in a third country.

The origins of the virus remain contested amongst scientists. Some experts now believe the market may not have been the origin and that it was instead only amplified there.