World Health Organization (WHO) experts want to research the origins of the coronavirus in China. But China has apparently blocked the experts’ entry due to a lack of entry documents. “I am very disappointed with this news,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an unusually clear criticism of China. “It’s very frustrating,” said Emergency Aid Coordinator Michael Ryan.
Two experts had already started the trip on Tuesday, two more had to stop their departure at the last minute, said Tedros. One of those who had already left has returned home, the second interrupted the trip in a third country, said Ryan. Contrary to what was agreed, Beijing announced at short notice that the necessary entry documents were not yet available. “Today we learned that the Chinese authorities have not yet completed the necessary permits for the team to arrive in China,” said Tedros.
He had made it clear to “high-ranking Chinese officials” that the mission was a “priority for the WHO” and the international investigation team, said Tedros. He had been assured that China would accelerate the processes for the earliest possible start of the mission.
WHO has been negotiating with China for months
The WHO has been negotiating this expert mission with China for months. The discussions made only slow progress. Every single expert has to be confirmed by the Chinese side before the team can start work. The experts want to travel to the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in the vicinity of a market.
The ten experts selected by the WHO come from Germany and the Netherlands from Japan, Qatar, Vietnam, Russia, Australia, Denmark, Great Britain and the USA and represent different disciplines. Virologists are represented, along with animal and public health professionals.
For months, Chinese authorities have been casting doubts that the virus even originated in China. State media referred to unconfirmed reports that there were possible Sars-CoV-2 infections in other countries before the first cases were discovered in Wuhan in early December 2019.