A World Health Organization team of international specialists visited an animal disease center in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Tuesday as part of their research into the roots of the coronavirus pandemic. A team member tweeted that they had met with staff in command of livestock health in Hubei province, toured laboratories, and had an in-depth discussion along with questions and answers. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei.
Further aspects of the visit were not announced in what has been a tightly controlled tour, with the media only able to glimpse the team coming and going from its hotel and site visits. The team members wore full protective gear during the visit. It’s not clear if they wore similar full-body suits at the research institutes, hospitals, and markets they visited on previous days. Outside their hotel and en route to and from visits, the experts have worn masks and professional or business casual attire.
Intense discussions preceded the WHO visit to Wuhan, where the first COVID-19 cases were discovered in late 2019. China has maintained stringent controls on access to information about the virus, possibly to evade blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the Chinese government had granted significant support and assistance to the WHO team, reacting to criticism that China has not revealed much about what the researchers are being allowed to do.
The data the team assembles will add to what is expected to be a years-long quest for answers involving taking animal samples, genetic analysis, and epidemiological studies.