WHO team investigating Covid origins blocked from entering China

6 January 2021, 08:16

A WHO team was blocked from entering China
A WHO team was blocked from entering China. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A team of World Health Organisation experts sent to China to examine the origins of Covid-19 have been denied entry to the country.

The head of the World Health Organisation has said he is "disappointed" that Chinese officials had not finalised permissions for their entry.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a rare critique of Beijing, said members of the international scientific team have begun over the last 24 hours to leave their home countries to head to China as part of an arrangement between the WHO and the Chinese government.

"Today we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalised the necessary permissions for the team's arrival in China," he told a news conference in Geneva.

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"I'm very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials."

Dr Tedros said he had "made it clear" that the mission was a priority for the UN health agency, and he had been "assured that China is speeding up the internal procedures for the earliest possible deployment".

"We are eager to get the mission under way as soon as possible," he said.

The experts, drawn from around the world, are expected to visit the city of Wuhan, which is suspected as the place where the coronavirus first emerged over a year ago.