China has denied entry to a team of World Health Organization representatives formed to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
The first outbreak of coronavirus occurred in the city of Wuhan in January 2020, however Chinese authorities have blocked international investigators from traveling to Wuhan to research the pandemic’s early days. The city is home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and Wuhan Centers for Disease Control, laboratories where scientists were studying coronaviruses that originated in bats.
W.H.O. head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Tuesday that he was “very disappointed” that China denied entry to the organization’s team.
“I have been assured that China is speeding up the internal procedure for the earliest possible deployment,” Tedros added.
China foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told the BBC that “there’s no need to reach too much into” the delay.
“We are in communication with the W.H.O. and as far as I know with dates and arrangements we are still in discussions,” Hua said.
The delays in the W.H.O. investigation come as U.S. policymakers are increasingly convinced that the coronavirus leaked from one of the laboratories in Wuhan.
“There is a growing body of evidence to say that a laboratory leak or accident is very much a credible possibility,” Matthew Pottinger, deputy White House national security adviser, told British lawmakers last week at the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. While Chinese authorities initially claimed the coronavirus originated at a seafood market in Wuhan, Pottinger said that “even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story.”
The coronavirus has killed at least 1.8 million people worldwide and infected 86.6 million, prompting nations to shutter businesses and halt mass gatherings in attempts to slow the spread of the illness.