WHO team in Wuhan departs quarantine for COVID origins study
WUHAN, China (AP) — A World Health Organization team emerged from quarantine in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday to start field work in a fact-finding mission on the origins of the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers, who were required to complete 14 days in quarantine after arriving in China, left their quarantine hotel and boarded a bus in the midafternoon.
The mission has become politically charged, as China seeks to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak. A major question is where the Chinese side will allow the researchers to go and whom they will be able to talk to.
Yellow barriers blocked the entrance to the hotel, keeping the media at a distance. Before the researchers boarded, workers in full protective gear could be seen loading their luggage onto the bus, including two musical instruments, a dumbbell and four yoga mattresses.
Hotel staff waved goodbye as the researchers boarded the bus, possibly headed to another hotel. The bus driver wore a full-body white protective suit. The researchers wore face masks.
Earlier this month, former WHO official Keiji Fukuda, who is not part of the team in Wuhan, cautioned against expecting any breakthroughs, saying it may take years before any firm conclusions can be made on the virus’s origin.
“This is now well over a year past when it all started," he said. "So much of the physical evidence is going to be gone. The memories of people are imprecise and probably the physical layout of many places are going to be different than they were and how people are moving about and so on.”
Among the places they might visit are the Huanan Seafood Market, which was linked to many of the first cases, as well as research institutes and hospitals that treated patients at...