A World Health Organisation (WHO) team of experts visiting Chinese city of Wuhan from where coronavirus said to have spread went to the Huanan seafood market to find how the virus jumped from animal to human.
The WHO team is investigating the origins of Covid-19 and the market is the place from where first clusters of infections were reported more than a year ago. A team member tweeted the visit was “critical” to understanding the virus.
The team members arrived at market, which has been sealed since January last year. They drove past barriers and entered the market premises with guards cordoning off the area.
The team also visited another wholesale market under the closely monitoring Chinese authorities.
The visit was delayed by Chinese authorities under various pretexts and was politicised. In this scenario, the WHO has already played down expectations of finding the source of a virus which has killed over two million people worldwide and devastated the global economy.
A team member, Peter Daszak, described the tours on Twitter as “very important site visits”, adding that they had “met with key staff at both markets and asked questions to help better understand the factors involved in the emergence of COVID”.
He tweeted that the visits were “critical for our joint teams to understand the epidemiology of COVID as it started to spread at the end of 2019”.
Chinese officials identified wild animals sold in the market as a likely source of the outbreak in initial stages of the pandemic, clamping down on the exotic animal trade in response.
China has been facing criticism for playing down the initial outbreak and concealing information when it first emerged in Wuhan in December 2019.