Advertisement

China says details of WHO visit for COVID-19 investigation still being negotiated

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: WHO boss says China hasn’t organized necessary permissions for members to study origins of virus' Coronavirus: WHO boss says China hasn’t organized necessary permissions for members to study origins of virus
WATCH: WHO boss says China hasn't organized necessary permissions for members to study origins of virus – Jan 5, 2021

China said Wednesday it was still negotiating with the World Health Organization the dates and itinerary for a visit by international experts looking into origins of COVID-19, after the head of the agency criticized Beijing for not finalizing permissions for the mission.

China’s position on the hunt for the origins of the pandemic “has always been open and responsible,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

She said that China has a close co-operation with WHO. However, the dates and itinerary need to be finalized, she said.

Read more: China seeks to avoid blame for coronavirus pandemic as WHO probe looms

“The origins problem is very complex. To ensure that the work of the global experts group in China is successful, we need to carry out the necessary procedures and relevant concrete plans. Currently both sides are still in negotiations on this,” Hua said. “I understand that it’s not just a visa problem and the actual date and itinerary. Both sides are still in close communication.”

Story continues below advertisement

China’s disease experts are currently busy with multiple small-scale clusters and outbreaks reported in the past couple of weeks, she added.

“Our experts are wholeheartedly in the stressful battle to control the epidemic,” she said.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: WHO director-general reflects one year after learning of pneumonia cases in Wuhan' Coronavirus: WHO director-general reflects one year after learning of pneumonia cases in Wuhan
Coronavirus: WHO director-general reflects one year after learning of pneumonia cases in Wuhan – Dec 28, 2020

An international team of experts had been due to visit the central city of Wuhan in January, where the pandemic first appeared a year ago.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that members of the international scientific team began departing from their home countries over the last 24 hours as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government.

“Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” Tedros said during a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: China says WHO supported early use of coronavirus vaccine candidate outside of trials

“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,” he said.

The Chinese government has been strictly controlling all research at home into the origins of the virus, an AP investigation found, and state-owned media have played up reports that suggest the virus could have originated elsewhere.