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WHO team member praises Wuhan's cooperation

Updated: Feb 7, 2021 Print
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China has granted full access to all sites and personnel requested by the World Health Organization expert team investigating the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, according to a member of the WHO team.

Peter Daszak, a British-born zoologist and president of the NGO EcoHealth Alliance in New York City, told The Associated Press on Friday that team members had submitted a deeply considered list of places and people to include in their investigation and that no objections were raised.

"We were asked where we wanted to go. We gave our hosts a list ... and you can see from where we've been, we've been to all the key places," Daszak told AP. "Every place we asked to see, everyone we wanted to meet. ... So really good."

According to the WHO team member, the team has concluded site visits and will spend the next few days going through data and consulting with Chinese experts before presenting a summary of their findings at a news briefing prior to their departure on Wednesday.

Daszak had high praise for Chinese experts, who had been preparing for the visit for months, particularly deputy director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Shi Zhengli.

Some, including people close to former US president Donald Trump, had speculated the institute may have been the origin of the outbreak and Chinese authorities were covering up the truth.

However, Daszak said they were met during their visit to the high-security institute with a level of openness even he hadn't anticipated, and that suspicions surrounding it had been "politicized on a global scale".

Daszak said the team was also given wide access when visiting hospitals that treated patients in the outbreak at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, talking with first clinicians who took in the first patients during that outbreak.

The team also visited the Huanan Seafood Market that was linked to early case clusters during that outbreak, meeting with vendors and market managers and touring the market with those who did the original environmental swabbing that produced signs of the virus even after the market had been closed down.

Daszak said the investigation by the team, composed of experts from 10 nations, was simply an initial step and that it would likely take years to confirm the origins of the virus.

AP contributed to this story.

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