After a meeting at the hospital that handled the first confirmed Covid-19 cases over a year ago, a team of WHO experts investigating the source of the coronavirus toured a propaganda exhibition celebrating China’s recovery from the Wuhan pandemic on Saturday.
To date, specifics of the trip have been sparse, with the media held at arm’s length and itinerary knowledge dribbling through World Health Organization experts’ tweets instead of China’s tight-lipped Communist authorities.
As the horrors of the virus erupted in the central Chinese region, the group was pushed to Jinyintan Hospital, the first to receive officially diagnosed Covid-19 patients in late 2019.
Crew member Peter Daszak welcomed the hospital visit in a tweet as a “important opportunity to speak directly with physicians who were on the ground fighting COVID at that critical time!” ”
The team visited a cavernous exhibition on Saturday afternoon, applauding the emergency response of Wuhan health authorities in the chaotic, alarming early stages of the epidemic, as well as the Communist leadership’s resilience in controlling an unprecedented crisis.
China denied the team access until mid-January and there are question marks about what the experts might expect to discover a year after the virus first appeared. The WHO mission comes with heavy political baggage.
WHO Emergency Director Michael Ryan tried to answer expectations on Friday.
He told a press conference in Geneva that “success is not necessarily measured in the absolute search for a source on the first mission.”
“This is a complicated business, but what we need to do is gather all of the data… and come to an assessment as to how much more we know about the origins of the disease and what further studies may be needed to elucidate that.”
Last week, after the White House requested a “robust and clear” investigation, China cautioned the United States against “political interference” during the trip.
The WHO maintains that the probe would stick closely to the science behind how the virus jumped to humans from animals, thought to be bats.
In what WHO’s Ryan described as a “very busy, busy schedule,” the team is also expected to visit the market believed to have seen the first big cluster of infections, as well as the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other laboratories.
‘It’s not an investigaton’
Beijing is desperate to condemn the chaotic early stages of the outbreak for its treatment.
At home and abroad, it has refocused attention on its control of and recovery from the outbreak.
The pandemic has ripped through the globe after slipping through China’s borders, killing more than two million people and wrecking economies.
China has bounced back, with a relatively low confirmed death toll of 4,636, and has rapidly locked down areas where cases have been discovered, tested millions and regulated travel to snuff out the crisis.
Despite the outbreak last year, the country’s economy expanded by 2.3 percent and its leadership lacks no hope of boasting of the country’s resilience and renewal.
The WHO visit was flagged by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman on Friday as “a part of global research” into the pandemic.
“It is not an investigation,” reporters were told by Zhao Lijian.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN