A team of UN World Health Organization (WHO) experts to study the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in Wuhan, central China, officials said on Thursday.
Upon arrival, scientists have been tested for coronavirus and will be quarantined for two weeks.
The Chinese ministry said on Monday that experts would work with Chinese scientists to see if the virus could be traced back to its origins.
The mission was due to start last Tuesday, but the experts had not received the necessary permits from China, including visas.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreesus last week expressed disappointment at China’s delay in issuing permits, but Beijing said preparations were not yet complete.
The Chinese government is tightly controlling research into the origins of the new coronavirus, while Beijing’s official media are actively disseminating information that the virus has in fact originated elsewhere.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Ji recently said that “an increasing number of studies confirm that the pandemic is likely to have been caused by a number of individual outbreaks in many parts of the world.”
The Chinese authorities have pointed to unconfirmed reports that the virus may have first appeared in other countries. Authorities have also claimed that traces of the virus on frozen goods are evidence that the virus may have entered China from abroad.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, China has been open and transparent in its communication and cooperation with the WHO on the origin of the virus,” a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday.
He noted that in February and July, when China was actively fighting the new coronavirus, Beijing twice invited WHO experts to China, organized video conferences and scientific forums, and shared the information available to it on the origin of the virus.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry also stressed that the WHO should conduct similar research in other countries and regions.
The researchers believe the virus most likely originated in bats in southern China.
Photo: Spread of coronavirus in China