An investigation into the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic will soon begin, as scientists have arrived in Wuhan today.
A team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) have arrived in the Chinese city. They will be attempting to get to the root of the cause and find out more about how the deadly virus put the whole world on lockdown.
The long-awaited investigation comes after months of negotiations between the WHO and Beijing.
A group of 10 scientists are set to interview people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market linked to the initial outbreak.
COVID-19 was first detected in the city of Wuhan back in late 2019, before spreading across the globe by March 2020.
The team’s arrival on January 14 coincides with a rise in new coronavirus cases in the north of the China, while life in Wuhan, central China, is relatively back to normal.
Scientists will undergo two weeks of quarantine before they start on their research, which will heavily rely upon samples and evidence provided by Chinese officials.
Peter Ben Embarek, the leader of the WHO team told AFP news agency that it “could be a very long journey before we get a full understanding of what happened”.
“I don’t think we will have clear answers after this initial mission, but we will be on the way,” he said.
The mission, which aims to investigate the animal origin of the pandemic, looks set to begin after some initial hiccups.
Earlier this month the WHO said its investigators were denied entry into China after one member of the team was turned back and another got stuck in transit. But Beijing said it was a misunderstanding and that arrangements for the investigation were still in discussion.
China has been saying for months that although Wuhan is where the first cluster of cases was detected, it is not necessarily where the virus originated.
Professor Dale Fisher, chair of the global outbreak and response unit at the WHO, told the BBC that he hoped the world would consider this a scientific visit. “It’s not about politics or blame but getting to the bottom of a scientific question,” he said.
Prof Fisher added that most scientists believed that the virus was a “natural event”.
The visit comes as China reports its first death from coronavirus in eight months.
This is in stark contrast to the UK’s ever-growing death toll, having passed 100,000 overall fatalities this week.
News of the Chinese woman’s death in northern Hebei province prompted anxious chatter online and the hashtag “new virus death in Hebei” trended briefly on social media platform Weibo.
The country has largely brought the virus under control through quick mass testing, stringent lockdowns and tight travel restrictions.
However, new cases have been resurfacing in recent weeks, mainly in the Hebei province surrounding Beijing and Heilongjiang province in the north-east of China.
Image via Alamy