China says WHO experts to investigate Covid-19 origins during long-awaited missions

Ten World Health Organization researchers will visit China from Thursday to investigate the origins of Covid-19, authorities said, more than a year after the pandemic began and among the Beijing allegations delayed investigation.

The WHO team “will conduct a joint research collaboration on the origins of Covid-19 with Chinese researchers,” the National Health Commission said in a statement.

The long-awaited mission – which has been discussed since last year – is of great political importance at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated major countries around the world, causing nearly two million deaths and halting the global economy. .

A last-minute delay in the mission earlier this month gave China a rare reprimand from the WHO chief.

The team of WHO experts is expected to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in China and is expected to visit Wuhan – the city where a deadly virus cluster emerged late last year – during its journey.

The United States and Australia have led international calls for an inquiry into the origins of the pandemic, which puts China under significant pressure amid growing demands for accountability.

Beijing has faced international criticism for its lack of transparency during the first outbreak, while domestically, the government has praised its own handling of the outbreak and stifled all criticism.