Experts are in Wuhan, where the virus first appeared, to piece together what happened during the initial outbreak.
A team of World Health Organization experts began their long-awaited investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, meeting with a group of Chinese scientists in Wuhan ahead of a series of field visits to hospitals, the laboratories and the Huanan, now closed. market, which was linked to the first cases of the disease in the central Chinese city.
“All the assumptions are on the table as the team follows the science in its work to understand the origins of the COVID-19 virus,” the WHO said in a tweet, stressing that experts “should receive support, l access and the data they need. . “
The group emerged from a two-week hotel quarantine on Thursday, during which they held daily virtual meetings with Chinese scientists who shared information on coronavirus studies completed in China. They also asked for “more detailed underlying data,” the United Nations health agency said.
The first cases of what was then a new “mysterious” pneumonia were reported in Wuhan in late December 2019.
As life in the city has almost returned to normal after a total lockdown that eradicated the virus, the growing death toll and economic damage to the rest of the world are adding to the pressure to find out where COVID is coming from- 19 and how he made the leap to humans.
“First face to face meeting with our colleagues. Correction: face mask to face mask given medical restrictions. We are discussing our visiting program, ”Marion Koopmans, virologist at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands tweeted on Friday.
“Wannian, the Chinese team leader, jokes about some technical issues. Nice to see our colleagues after long zoom meetings, ”she says.
Koopmans told Al Jazeera earlier that the plan was to get “as good a picture as possible of the initial results in Wuhan” and warned that there would be no quick or easy answers.
The team works in a context of concern for access and transparency. The United States accused China of covering up the extent of the initial outbreak and criticized the conditions of the visit, under which Chinese scientists conducted the first phase of research.
“It is important to remember that the success of this mission and the search for the origin depends 100% on access to the relevant sources,” Thea Fischer, Danish team member, told the Reuters news agency.
“No matter how skilled, how hard we work and how many stones we try to turn, it can only be possible with the support of China,” she said.
The group is expected to spend another two weeks in the country. In addition to visiting Huanan, he also expected to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology. One theory, rejected by China, is that the outbreak was caused by a leak in the government laboratory.
Since the outbreak hit global headlines a year ago, China has sought to take control of the narrative, taking action against medics and citizen journalists in Wuhan and warning families of the dead from do not talk to the media.
He also tried to make the case that the virus came from elsewhere, with regular reports in state media indicating traces of the virus on packaging of frozen food imported from overseas. He also sought to highlight the small number of scientific papers that suggested COVID was circulating in Europe in 2019.
The Foreign Office also hinted that the sudden closure of a U.S. Army lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland in July 2019 was linked to the pandemic.
“At the very beginning in China, it was a burden especially on the people of Wuhan when everyone called it a Wuhan virus, which was humiliating,” Yang You, a resident of the city, told Reuters. 30 years. “If it could be traced clearly back to the source, in my opinion it might erase the name of China or Wuhan.”