WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a rare criticism of Beijing, said that members of the international scientific team started from their home countries during the last 24 hours as part of an agreement between WHO and the government. Chinese.
“Today we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permits for the team’s arrival in China,” General Tedros said during a press conference in Geneva.
“I am very disappointed with this news as two members had already started their travels and others were unable to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials,” he said.
General Tedros said he “made it clear” that the mission was a priority for the UN health agency and that he was “assured that China is speeding up internal procedures for the earliest possible deployment.”
“We are eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible,” he said.
Experts from around the world are expected to visit the city of Wuhan, which is suspected to be the place where the coronavirus emerged more than a year ago.
Dr Michael Ryan, WHO’s chief of emergencies, said the deployment was expected to start today, but the necessary approvals, including for visa authorization, had not yet been granted.
The Chinese government has been tightly monitoring all research at home into the origins of the virus, an Associated Press investigation found, and state media have reproduced reports suggesting the virus may have originated elsewhere.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said recently that “more and more research suggests that the pandemic is likely caused by separate outbreaks in various parts of the world.”
The UN health agency received scorching criticism from President Donald Trump and other US officials for their alleged deference and excessive praise for China’s handling of the initial outbreak.
Dr. Ryan said General Tedros “took immediate action” and spoke to unspecified senior Chinese officials, and “has fully instilled in them the absolutely critical nature of this.”
“We hope this is just a logistical and bureaucratic problem that can be solved very quickly,” added Dr. Ryan.
The WHO chief met with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the pandemic was emerging early last year.