More than a year after iwhen COVID-19 appeared, a team of experts from the World Health Organization arrived in Wuhan on Thursday to investigate the source of the coronavirus, as China recorded its first COVID-19 death in eight months.
The 10 scientists landed for their long-delayed mission, met on arrival with Chinese officials in hazmat suits and provided
throat swabs, and were whisked to a hotel where before beginning their work they had to complete a two-week quarantine.
The virus was first discovered in late 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and has since spread
across the world, killing almost two million people to date, infecting tens of millions and eviscerating the global economy.
The WHO says it is important to determine the pathway
of the virus from animals to humans to avoid potential outbreaks.
But the team was barred from arriving last week, a sign of the political sensitivity of a virus
origin story muddied by recrimination between nations, speculation and denials, amid painstaking months of discussions over their remit.
The trip comes as China is moving to snuff out the virus’s new clusters.
In the north of China, more than 20 million residents
are under lockdown and one province has declared an emergency.
[READ ALSO] Jack Dorsey Clarifies Trump Twitter Ban
China had largely brought the pandemic under control through strict lockdowns and mass testing, hailing its economic rebound as an indication of strong leadership by the Communist authorities.
But another 138 infections were reported by the National Health Commission on Thursday — the highest single-day tally since March last year.
Clusters are still small compared with many countries contending with rampant infections and record numbers of deaths.
But the first Chinese virus fatality in several months — a woman with underlying conditions in northern Hebei province — seeded alarm across China.
The hashtag “New virus death in Hebei” quickly ratcheted up 270 million views on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Thursday.