By Gabriel Crossley*
WUHAN, China (Reuters) – A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic left its quarantine hotel in Wuhan on Thursday to begin field work, two weeks after arriving in the Chinese city where the virus emerged in late 2019.
Peter Ben Embarek and Marion Koopmans, members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, sit on a bus as they leave their quarantine hotel in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
The mission has been plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between China and the United States, which has accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.
The team left the hotel shortly after 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) without speaking to journalists, who were kept at a distance behind yellow barriers, and boarded a bus, whose driver wore full protective gear, and headed to another hotel.
The WHO has not provided details of the mission’s itinerary, although team leader Peter Ben Embarek said in November that the group would likely go to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where the first known cluster of cases was traced.