The WHO-led team of experts began their probe into the origins of the Covid-19 virus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan by meeting Chinese scientists and visiting the hospital that treated the first patients suspected to have been infected in December, 2019.
“Extremely important 1st site visit. We are in the hospital that treated some of the first known cases of Covid-19, meeting with the actual clinicians & staff who did this work, having open discussion about the details of their work,” Peter Daszak, a member of the team led by World Health Organization, tweeted on Friday.
The itinerary of the expert team has not been announced, though the UN agency has said it plans to visit the seafood market linked to the first cases in the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which conducts research on pathogens.
Speaking to state media, team leader Peter Ben Embarek, said: “[We hope to] understand the setting, see the places where cases were linked, reconstruct the initial event there, search for records of animals, products traded there. And possibly talking to some of the merchants who were there (Huanan seafood market) at that time.”
“My understanding is that there will be no restrictions or limitations in working with our Chinese colleagues or in visiting places the joint team deem of interest,” Ben Embarek told the tabloid, Global Times.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Friday that WHO and Chinese experts were working together to trace the origin of the virus, but stressed that the mission was not a probe.
“It is part of a global research, not an investigation,” Zhao said at the regular ministry briefing.
“It is important to remember that the success of this mission and origin-tracing is 100% depending on access to the relevant sources,” Thea Fischer, a Danish member of the team, told Reuters on Thursday.
“No matter how competent we are, how hard we work and how many stones we try to turn, this can only be possible with the support from China.”