Coronavirus: Asia

WHO team to arrive in China on Thursday

The pandemic first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The pandemic first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • A World Health Organisation (WHO) team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic will arrive in China on Thursday, the Chinese authorities said yesterday.

A lack of authorisation from Beijing had delayed the arrival of the 10-strong team on a long-awaited mission to investigate early infections, in what China's Foreign Ministry called a "misunderstanding".

However, the National Health Commission (NHC), which announced the arrival date, did not detail the team's itinerary. The team was originally scheduled to arrive early this month.

China has been accused of a cover-up that delayed its initial response to the outbreak, allowing the virus to spread after it emerged in Wuhan late in 2019.

The United States has called for a transparent WHO-led investigation and criticised terms which allowed Chinese scientists to do the first phase of preliminary research.

Ahead of the trip, Beijing has been seeking to shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began, with senior diplomat Wang Yi saying "more and more studies" showed it emerged in multiple regions.

While other countries continue to struggle with infection surges, China has aggressively doused flare-ups.

The mainland saw its biggest daily increase in Covid-19 cases in more than five months, the country's national health authority said yesterday, as new infections continued to rise in Hebei province surrounding Beijing.

Hebei accounted for 82 of 85 new local infections reported on Sunday, NHC said, with Liaoning province reporting two new cases and Beijing reporting one.

Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, went into lockdown and Hebei closed some sections of highways in the province.

The curbs are in line with the local authorities' usual response when they see a cluster emerge. Shijiazhuang accounted for 77 of the 82 new Covid-19 cases and all of the 49 new asymptomatic cases reported in Hebei province on Sunday.

Wangkui county, under the jurisdiction of Suihua city in Heilongjiang province, reported eight new asymptomatic cases and moved yesterday to close all non-essential businesses, ban people from leaving the city and block all non-essential traffic, state television reported.

China also saw 18 new imported infections from overseas.

The total number of new Covid-19 cases stood at 103, the highest since 127 cases were reported on July 30.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2021, with the headline 'WHO team to arrive in China on Thursday'. Print Edition | Subscribe