Cars transporting members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team, investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, arrive at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province
World Health Organization (WHO) team arrives at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province
Photo: AFP
World Health Organization (WHO) team arrives at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province

WHO team visit Wuhan market to investigate origins of first Covid-19 outbreak

Delayed by China and weighed down by political baggage, investigative mission has a permit to explore how virus jumped from animals to humans; team members would be limited to visits organized by Chinese hosts, would not have contact with community members

Reuters |
Updated: 01.31.21 , 12:40
A World Health Organization-led team of experts investigating the origins of Covid-19 visited Huanan market on Sunday, the now-shuttered wholesale seafood center in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the new coronavirus was initially detected.
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  • The team arrived at Huanan amid heavy security, with additional barricades set up outside a high blue fence surrounding the market, and left in a convoy after about one hour. The experts did not take questions from journalists.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Cars transporting members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team, investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, arrive at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province
    Cars transporting members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team, investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, arrive at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province
    World Health Organization (WHO) team arrives at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province
    (Photo: AFP)
    Since being released from a two-week quarantine on Thursday, the team has visited hospitals and markets, as well as an exhibition commemorating Wuhan's battle with the virus, which included a 76-day lockdown of the city of 11 million.
    The WHO, which has sought to manage expectations for the mission, said on Friday that team members would be limited to visits organized by their Chinese hosts and would not have any contact with community members, due to health restrictions.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    שנה לסגר הראשון שבסין
    שנה לסגר הראשון שבסין
    People conduct business as usual in Wuhan, China
    (Photo: EPA)
    No full itinerary for the team's two weeks of fieldwork has been announced, and journalists covering the tightly controlled visit have been kept at a distance from team members.
    Public access to the sprawling Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market has been restricted since it was shut at the beginning of last year.
    Before its closure, the market bustled with hundreds of stalls divided into sections for meat, seafood and vegetables. Now it stands as a landmark in a city that was traumatized as the original epicenter of what became the pandemic.

    Tracing the origins of the virus

    On Dec. 31, 2019, after four cases of a mystery pneumonia were linked to the market, it was shuttered overnight. By the end of January, Wuhan had gone into a 76-day lockdown.
    Experts say the Huanan market still plays a role in tracing the origins of the virus, since the first cluster of cases was identified there.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Cars transporting members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team, investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, arrive at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province
    Cars transporting members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team, investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, arrive at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province
    WHO team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, arrive at the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province
    (Photo: AFP)
    The WHO-led probe in Wuhan has been plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between China and the United States, which accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticized the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.
    The origins of the virus have become highly politicized, and some Chinese diplomats and state media have thrown support behind theories that the virus potentially originated in another country.
    The team had been set to arrive in Wuhan earlier in January, and China's delay of their visit drew rare public criticism from the head of the WHO, which then-U.S. President Donald Trump accused of being "China-centric".

    First published: 12:36 , 01.31.21
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