WHO experts to arrive Thursday in China to probe for virus origin

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World Health Organization Experts are arriving in China during this week in order to conduct an investigation for the Covid-19’s origin. They are expected to arrive this Thursday and then proceed to meet the National Health Commission, China’s WHO alternative.

It was not made clear if the experts would travel to Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus originated in late 2019. This visit has been long under negotiations and has experienced multiple delays with the WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus being on the record for being disappointed due to it. 

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian has said that China approved the visit after both sides called it an opportunity to “exchange views with Chinese scientists and medical experts on scientific cooperation on the tracing of the origin of the new coronavirus.” he continues on, “Along with continuous changes in the epidemic situation, our knowledge of the virus deepens, and more early cases are discovered,” he also added that the origin likely involved “multiple countries and localities.”

An Associated Press investigation has found that the Chinese government has been clamping down local research on the virus’ origins, as well as encouraging the Chinese press to report on the virus allegedly originating outside of China. 

Due to the investigation, it was made clear that China’s government is handing out thousands of dollars to scientists researching the virus’ origins in southern China, all the while monitoring their findings and forcing the researchers to not publish any research data unless it was approved by the government. All these were done by a new task force that is managed by China’s Cabinet, under the direct order of President Xi Jinping. 

This is also believed to be the primary reason why the warning for the pandemic was delayed, blocking the sharing of information with the WHO and in turn, delaying early testing. The origin of the virus has been speculated ever since its first outbreak, the most popular theory being the virus was most likely carried by bats, which then, in turn, passed it onto an intermediary species that are sold for consumption in traditional Chinese wet markets.

Recently, China has experienced another outbreak of coronavirus, particularly in its northern province of Heibei, close to Beijing. This was observed largely during Monday, where the number of cases suddenly doubled. The government has issued a ban to travel and ordered schools to close a week earlier than anticipated, in order to conduct massive-scale testing. 

In total, China has recorded 87,536 cases of the virus, with 4,634 of those leading to death. Currently, hospitals are treating 673 people for COVID-19, and 506 people are in isolation due to being asymptomatic, officials have reported. This particular outbreak has raised concern due to its proximity to the Chinese capital of Beijing, and those wanting to enter Beijing are made to show their proof of employment and a clean bill of health. 

The Chinese capital has also seen a few new cases, which made authorities lock down select suburban neighborhoods, requiring residents to show negative test results for them to access grocery stores and certain public spaces.