WHO investigators visit disease control centers in Wuhan

Beijing, Feb 1 (efe-epa).- A team of global investigators on Monday visited two disease control centers in Hubei as part of a World Health Organization (WHO) probe to trace the potential source of origin of the coronavirus in the central Chinese province where the virus was detected first last year.

The state-run CGTN broadcaster said the scientists from the WHO visited Wuhan’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as Hubei Province’s CDC.

“The international experts also had in-depth exchanges with local peers on early case samples and study data,” the broadcaster said.

The two health centers house laboratories to study the virus.

The WHO joined by Chinese researchers “went to laboratories during their visits to Hubei and Wuhan CDCs, including a biosafety level three laboratory and a flu reference lab,” the broadcaster said.

“The team also looked at samples and research data of initial Covid-19 cases and spoke with experts at the two centers.”

The CDC in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, is located a few hundred meters from the Huanan market, where the first infections of the virus were found.

On Sunday, the WHO experts visited the market, which was closed to the public in January 2020 and subsequently disinfected.

First, it was widely speculated that the virus spread from a market of fresh products and animals in Wuhan.

However, the official Chinese press has been propagating an alternative narrative in recent months that the virus may have originated from frozen food packets imported from other countries.

Earlier, the scientists visited a wholesale market to inspect a cold chain, which several state media blame for being the gateway for the virus into China through imported frozen products.

The team of 13 experts arrived in Wuhan on Jan.14. They began the ground visit in Wuhan last week after completing a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a hotel in the city.

The probe, marred by delays and clashes between China and the US, can be key in independently probing how the first known cases of the coronavirus originated.

In their first two days of field investigations on Friday and Saturday, the experts visited two hospitals that treated the first Covid-19 patients in Wuhan during the early stages of the pandemic.

Until now, the WHO has said “all hypotheses are on the table and it is definitely too early to come to a conclusion of exactly where the virus started either within or without China.”

The organization has sought “support, access and data” its experts need to carry out the probe.

According to CGTN, the Chinese government has organized all the visits requested by the WHO “as China has an open and transparent attitude toward cooperation to prevent future risks.”

“Experts from both the WHO and China will continue to discuss and analyze the collected data through video calls and in-person communication,” CGTN said.

It said the field trips were not open to the media to avoid distractions.

However, media representatives are free to take pictures around the locations. EFE-EPA

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