WHO experts visit China to set up coronavirus investigation
The World Health Organization (WHO) has sent an advance team to China to conduct an investigation on the origins of the coronavirus that emerged in the country late last year, a spokeswoman for WHO said Friday.
The coronavirus is said to have emerged from a wet market in the Chinese Hubei province in the city of Wuhan, crossing the species barrier from other animals to infect humans, Reuters reported.
The organization is sending in two specialists, one in animal health and one in epidemiology. They will work with Chinese scientists to develop a scope and itinerary of the investigation, according to WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris.
“They have gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party that is to work out the scope,” she told a briefing.
The probe could include negotiations leading to the development of a larger team for the project, Harris added.
Harris said the organization is sending an animal health expert to determine whether the virus did jump from another species and from which species it originated.
“We know it’s very, very similar to the virus in the bat, but did it go through an intermediate species? This is a question we all need answered,” she said.
President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have often raised the possibility that the virus emerged from a lab in Wuhan, although scientists and U.S. intelligence agencies say it is derived from nature.
Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., told Reuters that uncovering the truth about the coronavirus’s origin would be “very hard,” adding that “we may never know for sure.”
“The wet market was closed immediately. There is no independent record, evaluation or investigation of a potential zoonotic source, so it will be very hard to go back and piece together,” he said.