Beijing denied entry to the World Health Organization team at the last minute despite months of painstaking negotiations,An expert mission to China to probe the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic was in disarray Wednesday after reports AFP.
Ten experts were due to arrive in China this week for the delicate, highly politicised task of establishing how and where the virus jumped from animals to humans.
But with a number of the team already in transit, China denied them entry visas, prodding WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to say he was “very disappointed”.
China is determined to control the origin story of the virus, which has killed more than 1.8 million people around the world and laid waste to global economies.
The first cases of the coronavirus were recorded in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, prompting accusations of chaotic, secretive handling by Chinese authorities which led to its spread beyond China
US President Donald Trump called the pandemic the “China virus”.
Despite the hail of criticism, Beijing has so far resisted pressure for an independent probe and instead has seeded doubt as to whether the pandemic even started inside its borders.
Beijing foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed the WHO team had not been admitted as planned, and admitted it was “not just a visa issue”.
“The issue of origin-tracing is incredibly complicated,” she told reporters at a regular news briefing.
“To ensure the work of the international expert team in China goes smoothly, we have to carry out necessary procedures and make relevant arrangements.”
Talks were continuing over “the specific date and specific arrangement of the expert group’s visit,” Hua added, despite the months of negotiations already spent on setting up the trip.