China says WHO coronavirus experts to visit from Thursday
Ten World Health Organization scientists will visit China from Thursday to probe the origins of Covid-19, authorities said Monday, more than a year after the pandemic began and amid accusations Beijing has tried to thwart the investigation, AFP reports.
The long-awaited mission is of great political significance at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the world, caused almost two million deaths, and brought the global economy to a virtual standstill.
The WHO team "will conduct joint research cooperation on the origins of Covid-19 with Chinese scientists", the National Health Commission said in a statement that provided no further details.
A last-minute delay to the mission earlier this month earned China a rare rebuke from the head of the WHO.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was "very disappointed" China had not authorised the team's entry -- especially as two members were already en route.
Beijing sought to downplay the tension, however, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying calling it a "misunderstanding".
The WHO experts will have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival, but are expected later to visit Wuhan -- the city where the deadly virus was first detected in late 2019.