A team of investigators from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Wuhan, China without two members on Thursday, over a year after the first coronavirus case was detected in the city.
The team is probing the virus’s source, but in what is interpreted as a sign of Beijing’s efforts to retain some control surrounding the investigation, two scientists were barred from entering China after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies, WHO said. The remaining scientists will start their investigation while undergoing a two-week quarantine.
“The international team of 13 scientists examining the origins of the virus that causes #COVID19 arrived in Wuhan, #China, today. The experts will begin their work immediately during the 2 weeks quarantine protocol for international travelers,” the organization tweeted.
“Two scientists are still in #Singapore completing tests for #COVID19. All team members had multiple negative PCR and antibody tests for COVID-19 in their home countries prior to traveling,” it added. “They were tested again in #Singapore and were all negative for PCR. But two members tested positive for IgM antibodies. They are being retested for both IgM and IgG antibodies.”
“Relevant epidemic prevention and control requirements and regulations will be strictly enforced,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters when asked about the two scientists blocked from entering China, according to Reuters.
WHO’s presence in Wuhan is one of the most concrete steps to date in international health officials’ efforts to understand how the coronavirus jumped from animals to humans before infecting nearly a billion people worldwide and killing nearly 2 million.
However, the investigators are anticipated to face some resistance from China. Beijing let WHO experts into the country last July, but barred them from visiting Wuhan. WHO has also accused China of slow-walking permits for the current group of investigators.
The investigation comes as the world looks to turn the corner from the coronavirus with the widespread distribution of several different vaccines. Still, little is known about the origins of the deadly virus.