The World Health Organization (WHO) said that China has denied entry into the country, a team probing the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic, thereby throwing the expert mission into disarray at the last minute, despite months of negotiations.
According to a report from CNN, this disclosure was made by the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a rare criticism by the UN health agency on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
The WHO boss said 2 scientists on the United Nations team had already left their home countries for Wuhan, China, when they were informed that Chinese officials had not approved the necessary permissions to enter the country after arrangements had been jointly agreed with China in advance.
A number of experts were due to arrive in China this week for the delicate, much-expected inquiry into establishing how and where the virus got transmitted from animals to humans.
What the WHO Director-General is saying
Tedros in a news conference in Geneva said, “I am very disappointed with this news. I have been in contact with senior Chinese officials and I have once again made clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team.”
He said, ‘’WHO was eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible” and that he had been given assurances that Beijing was speeding up the internal procedure for “the earliest possible deployment.”
On his part, the Executive Director of WHO’s health emergencies program, Dr Michael Ryan, said there was an issue with visas and one team member had already returned home. The other was waiting in transit in a third country.
It is widely believed that China is determined to control the origin story of the virus, which has recorded over 1.8 million casualties around the world and devastated global economies, as they have so far resisted pressure for an independent investigation.
The spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, in a press briefing on Wednesday said that China had always held an open, transparent and responsible attitude on tracing the origin of the virus.
Hua pointed out that China had previously welcomed WHO experts into the country and said that the UN investigation team and Chinese experts have maintained frequent interactions which include 4 video meetings between October and December.
Hua said, “In order to ensure that the international expert group that comes to China can work smoothly, it is needed to fulfil the necessary procedures and make relevant specific arrangements. The two sides are still negotiating about this.’’
What you should know
- It can be recalled that the first cases of the coronavirus identified in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, prompting criticisms of the uncoordinated, secretive handling by Chinese authorities which led to its spread outside China.
- The United States and Australia were at the forefront of China’s handling of the initial stages of the pandemic, accusing Beijing of downplaying its severity and preventing an effective response until it became too late.
- US President Donald Trump, who called the pandemic China virus, has repeatedly blamed China for the global pandemic and announced that the US would terminate its relationship with WHO, over allegations of conspiracy with the Chinese authorities to mislead the world.
- In May 2020, the WHO agreed to hold an inquiry into the global response to the pandemic after more than 100 countries signed a resolution calling for an independent probe.
- The visit by WHO-led experts was seen as a very critical way to resolve this dilemma and seek clear answers on how the virus started.
- As countries around the world are now struggling to deal with the outbreak of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, China appears to be rebounding, last month reporting positive economic growth for the second quarter in a row.