WHO team arrives in Wuhan to search for pandemic origins

World Health Organization experts head to Wuhan to investigate source of Covid-19 pandemic

The WHO says establishing the pathway of the virus from animals to humans is essential to preventing future outbreaks.

Workers stand next to Wuhan residents wearing face masks waiting in a line to be tested of COVID-19 in a neighborhood in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on 15 May 2020.

"Two scientists are still in #Singapore completing tests for #COVID19", the United Nations health body said in a tweet.

Earlier this month, WHO expressed disappointment with China for delaying the travel of experts to the Asian country to investigate the origin of the virus, in a rare instance of public criticism from the worldwide organization.

More than one year after the first alarms were raised in China about an unknown pathogen that was then identified as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the country has reported fewer than 100,000 cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins.

After landing, the team will spend two weeks in quarantine before visiting various sites to investigate how the coronavirus first jumped to people, said Ben Embarek, an expert in zoonosis, diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The National Health Commission on Thursday reported 138 new infections, the largest daily increase since March of past year.

Health authorities gave no details about the latest death except that it occurred in Hebei province, where the government has placed several cities under lockdown.

According to official figures, 4,635 people have died in China from the coronavirus - a figure that critics say has likely been understated given the number of deaths in the early days of the outbreak before testing kits were widely available.

The hashtag "New virus death in Hebei" quickly ratcheted up 270 million views on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Thursday.

"I haven't seen the words "virus death" in so long, it's a bit shocking!"

China, which celebrated victory over the virus a year ago with businesses and schools reopening and awards handed out to virus experts and front-line medical workers, is now battling resurgent cases.

As infections have spread, northeastern Heilongjiang declared an "emergency state" on Wednesday, telling its 37.5 million residents not to leave the province unless absolutely necessary.

World Health Organization said earlier that the global team of experts had landed in Wuhan for the long-delayed mission, but it later tweeted that two had yet to make it there.

Peter Ben Embarek, team lead for the mission, said the group would start with a two-week quarantine at a hotel due to China's border requirements.

He warned it "could be a very long journey before we get a full understanding of what happened".

"We know that the virus originated in bats at some point". "It's not about politics or blame but getting to the bottom of a scientific question", he said.



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