China bars two members of WHO coronavirus mission as depleted team reaches Wuhan

The team’s partial arrival comes after Chinese authorities delayed the journey by greater than every week, and after virtually a yr of wrangling and negotiation by the WHO to achieve entry to the central Chinese metropolis the place the coronavirus emerged.

The investigators — a variety of virus, meals security and different specialists — face a battle to search out the supply of the pandemic greater than a yr after the mysterious virus was first detected. They may also grapple with political hurdles and added scrutiny as critics accuse the U.N. well being physique of being beholden to China, whose state media has been promoting the narrative that the virus originated exterior the nation.

WHO researchers have mentioned they’re dedicated to following “all leads,” whereas Beijing has pledged willingness to cooperate, regardless of preliminary opposition to a global probe. Chinese officers mentioned this week that the worldwide team will work with Chinese researchers within the investigation, elevating questions in regards to the team’s freedom to pursue all strains of inquiry.

The mission faces the added complication of a spike in virus instances in China, the place authorities on Thursday reported the nation’s first coronavirus demise in eight months. Health officers mentioned a woman in Zengcheng village in Hebei province, the epicenter of a brand new outbreak close to Beijing, died on Wednesday from organ failure brought on by the virus.

After experiencing a light fever, coughing and respiratory issues, the woman examined optimistic for the virus on Jan. 9 and was hospitalized. Hebei well being officers didn’t give the woman’s age however have beforehand mentioned all essential instances within the province have been sufferers over 60 years outdated. Officials mentioned she had underlying extreme post-cardiac harm syndrome.

China, which celebrated victory over the virus final yr with companies and faculties reopening and awards handed out to virus specialists and front-line medical employees, is now battling resurgent instances. The National Health Commission on Thursday reported 138 new infections, the most important every day improve since March of final yr.

On Thursday, authorities have been marshaling sources and manpower to Hebei province, the place greater than 20 million folks in a number of cities inside commuting distance of Beijing have been positioned underneath lockdown. At least 3,000 quarantine models arrived within the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, whereas employees have been setting up discipline hospitals in Beijing.

According to official figures, 4,635 folks have died in China from the coronavirus — a determine that critics say has possible been understated given the quantity of deaths within the early days of the outbreak earlier than testing kits have been broadly out there.

On social media, information of the nation’s first covid-19 demise since mid-2020 was one of probably the most mentioned matters, with customers asking for extra particulars of the woman’s case. One commentator wrote: “Why does the news only say that there was one death in Hebei? How old is she? Why did they fail in saving her?” 

Lyric Li in Seoul and Alicia Chen in Taipei contributed to this report.

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