Jan 5, 2021 - Health

WHO leader "disappointed" after China delays approval of COVID origin investigation

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a July 3 press conference in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/pool/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admonished China on Tuesday for delaying authorization that would allow groups of scientists from other countries to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan.

Why it matters: We still don't know how the pandemic began.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: It took nearly a year for China to agree to WHO involvement in an investigation into coronavirus origins, an almost absurdly lengthy delay.

  • During that time, Tedros repeatedly praised China's response and fended off criticism. It's interesting that he would choose to finally speak out against China's last-minute foot-dragging when a year has already been lost.

What he's saying: WHO learned on Tuesday that Chinese officials had "not yet finalized the necessary permissions" for members of the international scientific team to arrive in China, just after those scientists had begun to travel in the last 24 hours, Tedros said.

  • "I am very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute."
  • Tedros said he had been in contact with senior Chinese officials in response to the incident and that he "once again made it clear the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team."
  • "I have been assured that China is speeding up the internal procedure for the earliest possible deployment," he said.
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