A World Health Organisation team arrived in China’s city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 first surfaced in 2019, to investigate the origins of the pandemic, Chinese media said on Thursday.
The team will stay in the city for about a month, including a two-week quarantine.
The team arrived in China after long negotiations between the WHO and Beijing.
Ten scientists will interview people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market linked to the initial outbreak. They have to rely upon samples and evidence provided by Chinese officials.
Team leader Peter Ben Embarek called it “a very long journey” before we get a full understanding of what happened.
He said there might not be clear answers in initial research, “but we will be on the way,” he said.
Earlier this month the WHO said China denied its investigators entry on lame excuses. But Beijing said it was a misunderstanding.
China has been saying for months that although Wuhan is where the first cluster of cases was detected, it is not necessarily where the virus originated.
Professor Dale Fisher, chair of the global outbreak and response unit at the WHO, expressed the hope that the world would consider this a scientific visit.
He denied that there was no politics in the research, but an attempt to the core of a scientific question.
Prof Fisher said that most scientists believed that the virus was a “natural event”.
The WHO team reached China as it reported first death from coronavirus in northern Hebei province in eight months.
China contained the virus through quick mass testing, strict lockdown and travel restrictions.
But new cases have been resurfacing in recent weeks, mainly in Hebei province surrounding Beijing and Heilongjiang province in the northeast.