W.H.O. Team in Beijing for Coronavirus Investigation Stuck in Quarantine

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wears a mask after leaving a ceremony of the restarting of Geneva's landmark fountain, known as "Jet d'Eau" following the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus on June 11, 2020 in Geneva. - The fountain was switched off on March 20, …
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) advance team sent to China to investigate the origins of the Chinese coronavirus has yet to be released from a mandatory two-week quarantine, meaning they have done no work yet in the country.

At a regularly scheduled press conference on July 22, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporter asked Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin when the W.H.O. expert team sent to China will “be released from quarantine.” The AFP reporter noted that the W.H.O. confirmed on July 17 that “the advance team of experts sent to China [was] still in quarantine” last Friday, one week after arriving in China.

Wang refused to give a straight answer but indirectly confirmed that the team remained in quarantine as of Wednesday, July 22. Beijing’s reception of the investigative team “fully demonstrates China’s openness, transparency, and high sense of responsibility” to “international anti-virus cooperation and global public health,” Wang claimed in his response, using the question as an opportunity to praise the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Amid international pressure, the W.H.O. has sent the team to China to gather information regarding the Chinese coronavirus’s true origins. While most health authorities agree that the Chinese coronavirus was first documented in Wuhan, China, sometime last year, most key details of the virus’s emergence remain unclear due to the CCP’s efforts to obfuscate China’s initial outbreak in Wuhan. Critics have accused the W.H.O. of complicity in the CCP’s alleged coverup.

“China has placed the advance team of experts who are laying the groundwork for a broader investigation [into the Chinese coronavirus] under a standard 14-day quarantine, forcing them to do some of their detective work from a distance,” the New York Times reported on July 21.

At a press conference on July 17, a Reuters reporter asked Mike Ryan, the W.H.O.’s chief of emergency response, for “an update … on the W.H.O. advance mission that’s been in China for a week now.”

Responding, Ryan said, “Obviously the arrival and quarantine of individuals and working remotely is not the ideal way to work, but we fully respect the risk-management procedures put in place.”

When asked if he “expects a wider W.H.O.-led international mission to [arrive in] China … in July,” Ryan said:

I think at this point it’s unrealistic given the timelines and given the logistics that we would expect a full mission to be going to the fields in July just in terms of the timing and in terms of pulling that [international] team together… and then bringing that team into China to work with Chinese colleagues is going to take – just from a purely logistics and health risk management perspective – weeks, not days.

The W.H.O. investigation “is likely to take many months and could face [further] delays,” the Times predicts.

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