China backtracks at last minute, denies entry to WHO experts

The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Image: Getty.

DHARAMSALA,  7 Jan: A visit of a team of international experts to study the origins of COVID-19 to China stands in the limbo as China backtracks its decision to allow the expedition.

China has backtracked on its permission for a visit of a team of international experts to study the origins of COVID-19  at the very last minute drawing rare criticism from the WHO’s director.

Beijing has blocked the arrival of a team from the World Health Organization investigating the origin of coronavirus pandemic at the very last minute citing their “visas had not yet been approved even as some members of the group were on their way,” the Guardian reported.

“I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members have already begun their journeys, and others were not able to travel at the last minute,” WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said expressing his dismay over the development.

He has further called on China to allow the team in. “But I have been in contact with senior Chinese officials. And I have once again made it clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team,” he added.

The Director-General’s statement marks a sharp turn as he has previously sung only songs of praise for China, the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic although China stands accused of denials and cover-ups during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 in Wuhan,  the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province.

A year on, COVID-19  continues to disrupt the global order since its outbreak. According to John Hopkins, globally, a total of 88,005,213 people have contracted coronavirus that has resulted in 1,897,568 deaths.

According to media reports, the WHO has been attempting to send in the team of global experts from a number of countries for some months and that the world health body said in December that it had been granted permission for a visit of a team of 12-15 experts this month to study the origins of the outbreak in Wuhan. China.

The development came despite reports that the team from the WHO are headed to Wuhan to investigate the earliest cases and that the experts were not intending to probe claims that the virus originated in a Chinese lab.

However, Beijing has defended its decision to backtrack its agreement at the last minute and delay the visit.

Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has stated on Wednesday that the issue of origin-tracing was “very complicated.”

“To ensure the work of the international expert team in China goes smoothly, we have to carry out necessary procedures and make relevant arrangements,” She has said.

Defending China’s decision to deny entry to the WHO experts,  she further stated that China had in February and July last year invited WHO experts to come to China on the issue of tracing origins.

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