Jan 14, 2021 - Health

WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins

Health workers in personal protection suits stand next to buses at a cordoned-off section at the international arrivals area, where arriving travellers are to be taken into quarantine in Wuhan

Health workers at a cordoned-off section of the international airport in Wuhan, China, as the World Health Organization team arrives on Thursday. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

A World Health Organization team of researchers arrived in Wuhan, China, Thursday ahead of their investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driving the news: Dominic Dwyer, a Sydney virologist based who's among the scientists on the visit, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation they don't expect to find a "patient zero." "But we may have a much better indication of whether the virus truly started in Wuhan," he said.

  • "Or did it start somewhere else but was then amplified in Wuhan? Did it come from an animal source and if so, which one? What was the role of laboratories in all of this? I think we'll have a better idea," Dwyer added.

The big picture: The WHO agreed last May to a call from over 110 countries to lead an independent review of the global coronavirus response after China backed the move following clashes with Australia, which had earlier advocated for a sweeping inquiry.

  • But the visit has been hit by delays. Earlier this month, Chinese officials delayed authorization to allow the international team's scheduled visit — drawing a rare rebuke from World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
  • An AP investigation last month found the ruling Chinese Communist Party enforced controls on research into the outbreak and blocked scientists from being interviewed by reporters.

What's next: The WHO team will undergo two weeks of quarantine before they start their research.

Flashback: Timeline: The early days of China's coronavirus outbreak and cover-up

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