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WHO Experts to Visit China This Week for Coronavirus Investigation

People wait for the train at the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, as travel restrictions for leaving the city are lifted and people will be allowed to leave the city via road, rail, and air, April 8, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

China’s National Health Commission announced Monday that a group of experts from the World Health Organization is scheduled to arrive in the country to begin an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic this week.

The Commission issued a one-sentence announcement saying that the experts were set to arrive on Thursday and meet with Chinese officials, though it was not clear if the visit would include a trip to Wuhan, where the virus was first identified in late 2019.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week expressed frustration over delays, explaining that members of the international scientific team had already begun their trip under an agreement between the WHO and the Chinese government. 

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is fully supportive of Dr. Tedros’ and WHO’s efforts to get a team in there.”  

“It’s very important that as the WHO is in the lead in fighting the pandemic, that it also has a leading role in trying to look back at the roots of this pandemic so we can be better prepared for the next one,” Dujarric said.

China has worked hard to control the narrative surrounding the virus, punishing citizen journalists who spoke out against the government’s explanation of events. The government has also controlled all research in the country into the origins of the virus, according to the Associated Press. 

Following Tedros’ statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said the country was amenable to a visit but that it was still working on “necessary procedures and relevant concrete plans.”

The country’s disease experts are currently preoccupied with a number of small-scale clusters and outbreaks reported in the past few weeks, ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.  

“Our experts are wholeheartedly in the stressful battle to control the epidemic,” Hua said.

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