BEIJING (CHINA) – The WHO has expressed concerns over the delay in authorising it’s team of experts to visit China. The team is being sent to look into the origins of the Novel coronavirus. China, however, played down the concerns put forth by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Tuesday he was “very disappointed” that China had not authorised the entry of the team for the investigation, which he said was a WHO priority.
Not much is known about the origins of the virus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. China has been sensitive about any suggestion it could have done more in the early stages of the pandemic to stop it.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, told a regular news briefing in Beijing that the problem was “not just about visas” for the team.
Asked about reports that the dates had been agreed upon, she said there had been a “misunderstanding” and the two sides were still in discussions over the timing and other arrangements and “remain in close communication”.
“There’s no need to overinterpret this,” she said.While China has been seeking to shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began, with senior diplomat Wang Yi saying “more and more studies” showed that it emerged in multiple regions, WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan said he found this “highly speculative”.
As part of a long-awaited mission to investigate early cases of the disease, the 10-member team of international experts were to visit China in early January .
China’s experts were also busy dealing with new cases of COVID infections, with many locations being cordoned off to stop the virus.
China has also dismissed criticism of its handling of early cases although some including U.S. President Donald Trump have questioned its actions during the outbreak.
The United States, which has announced plans to leave the WHO, has called for a “transparent” investigation and criticised the terms under which Chinese experts conducted a first phase of research.
The mission is due to be led by Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s top expert on animal diseases that cross the species barrier, who went to China on a preliminary mission last July.