It has been more than a year since the novel Coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China. Now, when the entire world is suffering due to the virus and millions of people are waiting for a vaccine, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived on Thursday, January 14, in Wuhan city to investigate the source of the SARS-CoV-2.
The team landed in China at a time when the country is seeing a new surge in COVID-19 cases on its northeast side. On Thursday, China reported its first death attributed to COVID-19 in months. The National Health Commission said Heilongjiang province recorded 43 new cases. According to reports, the northern province of Hebei which has seen China's most serious recent outbreak recorded another 81 cases.
Chinese authorities have put over 20 million people under varying degrees of lockdown in Beijing, Hebei and other areas to curb the spread of new cases ahead of next month's Lunar New Year holiday.
The team arrived in the central city of Wuhan where SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in 2019. The visit of WHO's team was approved by President Xi Jinping's government after months of diplomatic wrangling that led director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to criticize Chinese authorities.
However, two scientists from the WHO team were unable to enter China at the last minute. They remained in Singapore after being tested positive for Coronavirus antibodies (IgM antibodies), said WHO.
State broadcaster CGTN reported that the remaining 13 team members will be quarantined for two weeks in Wuhan and undergo testing for the virus. The objective of this investigation is to find out how the virus jumped to humans from animals. As per scientists, this is a critical step to avoid another pandemic in the future.
Over the past year, China used a variety of tactics to obstruct the WHO's investigation. After rejecting demands from other countries to allow independent investigators in China to study the origin of the virus, the authorities finally let two WHO experts to visit in July 2020. But once again they faced obstacles as the Chinese authorities did not allow them to visit Wuhan city.
The Coronavirus pandemic has destroyed China's international reputation, as many countries and political leaders believe that the authorities failed to control the serious health crisis at an initial stage. Now, according to critics, Beijing's desire to control the investigation would mean that the inquiry is more political than scientific.
However, while many experts believe that the virus probably originated in animals, possibly bats, there are many things that need to be clarified to reveal the ultimate truth. So, tracing the source of the virus, which killed more than 1,981,600 as of January 14 will be painstaking.