Wuhan, China (AP) – A World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic visited two disease control centers on Monday that were playing an early role in managing the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
WHO investigators arrived in Wuhan, the provincial capital, last month to look for evidence and visited hospitals and a seafood market where early cases were discovered.
On Monday, the team visited the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and its office in Wuhan, amid tight Chinese controls on access to information about the virus.
China has sought to avoid blaming the alleged mistakes for its early response to the outbreak, while promoting alternative theories that the virus originated elsewhere and may have been transferred to Wuhan from outside the country.
After visiting the regional center, team member Peter Daszak told reporters it was “a really good meeting, really important”. No other details were provided.
The evidence the team collects will add to what is expected to be a search for answers that will last for years. Identifying the animal sources of the outbreak requires massive amounts of research including animal sampling, genetic analysis, and epidemiological studies.
China has largely limited its domestic transmission through stringent testing and contact tracing. The wearing of masks in public places is almost universally observed and lockdowns are routinely imposed on communities and even entire cities where cases are detected. The latest outbreaks have occurred mostly in the frozen northeast, with 33 new cases reported on Monday nationwide in three provinces.
Despite this, China recorded more than 2,000 new domestic cases of COVID-19 in January, the highest monthly total since the last phase of the initial outbreak in Wuhan last March. Two people died of the disease in January, the first reported death from COVID-19 in China in several months.
Online schools have entered and travel has been cut dramatically during the Lunar New Year holiday this month, as the government offers incentives for people to stay during the most important time for family gatherings across the vast country.