Wuhan (SunstarTV Bureau): The World Health Organisation team’s most awaited fact finding mission into the origins of the Covid-19 virus in Wuhan city, are about to begin face-to-face meetings with their Chinese counterparts on Friday, informed sources.
“All hypotheses are on the table as the team follows the science in their work to understand the origins of the Covid-19 virus. The team will have their first face-to-face meeting with Chinese scientists on Friday and then begin field visits in and around Wuhan in China,” WHO tweeted.
“As members start their field visits on Friday, they should receive the support, access and the data they need. The team members had spent the past two weeks in a required quarantine, during which they had been communicating with Chinese officials by videoconferences to lay the groundwork for field visits,” informed WHO.
At their new hotel, some were seen waving from balconies, and people arriving aboard three buses went inside, possibly to join in the preliminary meeting between WHO and Chinese scientists.
WHO further said late Thursday on Twitter that, “The team plans to visit hospitals, laboratories and markets. Field visits will include the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Huanan market, Wuhan CDC laboratory. They will speak with early responders and some of the first #COVID19 patients.”
The mission has become politically charged, as China seeks to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak.
Confirmation of the origins of the virus is likely to take years; pinning down an outbreak’s animal reservoir typically requires exhaustive research including taking animal samples, genetic analysis and epidemiological studies.
One possibility is that a wildlife poacher might have passed the virus to traders who carried it to Wuhan. The Chinese government has promoted theories, with little evidence, that the outbreak might have started with imports of frozen seafood tainted with the virus, a notion roundly rejected by international scientists and agencies.
A possible focus for investigators is the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city where the outbreak began. One of China’s top virus research labs, it built an archive of genetic information about bat coronaviruses after the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
New cases of local transmission in China are continuing to fall with just 36 announced on Friday, even as the annual Lunar New Year travel push gets under way.
Authorities have taken a variety measures to discourage travel this season and far fewer Chinese than usual appear willing to make the trip, even though it might be their only chance to return home and see family all year.
The north-eastern province of Heilongjiang reported the largest number of new cases, 21, over the past 24 hours, followed by Jilin province just to the south. The capital Beijing and its surrounding province of Hebei both reported one new case each.