China blocks a World Health Organisation team from entering country to study the origin of COVID-19
China blocks a team of experts from the WHO that has been planning a trip to investigate COVID origins, in conjunction with the Chinese government, since July.
The head of the World Health Organisation has said he is “very disappointed” China has denied its experts access to investigating the origins of coronavirus.
A ten-strong team of international scientists and virologists had been due to set off in early January as part of a long-awaited mission to probe early cases of coronavirus, first reported over a year ago in China’s Wuhan province.
This comes after Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old dialysis patient has become the first to receive the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19, after Over half a million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine were made ready for use on Monday.
But Chinese officials have not yet finalised the necessary permissions for the team to enter the country, despite the WHO having been talking with Chinese officials since July.
And in a rare criticism of Beijing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed his frustration at the delay.
“Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China.”
“I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials,” he said.
Mr Tedros has spoken with unspecified senior Chinese officials, and “fully impressed upon them the absolute critical nature of this”.
He said he had “made it clear” that the mission was a priority for the UN health agency, adding: “We are eager to get the mission under way as soon as possible.”
An update on our main story this morning about World Health Organization investigators being denied entry to China. The WHO had said this was due to a lack of visa clearances.
However, the Chinese government now says the decision to deny the team entry is “not just limited to a visa issue but to the dates and some other details”.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told the BBC: “Chinese authorities are in close co-operation with WHO but there have been some minor outbreaks in multiple places around the world and many countries and regions are busy in their work preventing the virus, and we are also working on this.”
This comes after during a UK coronavirus press conference, on a question about the new variant of COVID-19, Chris Whitty says the threat at the moment is “extraordinarily high” if people do not adhere to the lockdown rules.
She added that China supports international co-operation and talks are continuing over “the specific date and specific arrangement of the expert group’s visit”.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday he was “very disappointed” that China had not yet finalised the permissions for the team’s arrivals “given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute”.
Ms Hua told the BBC there might have been “some misunderstanding” between the WHO and Beijing, but “there’s no need to read too much into it… we hope the details can be determined as soon as possible”.
The origins of the coronavirus remain deeply contested. The virus was first detected in humans in Wuhan in late 2019, with the initial outbreak linked to a market.