World WHO team probing coronavirus origins in China's Wuhan set to leave quarantine

08:56  28 january  2021
08:56  28 january  2021 Source:   reuters.com

How China tackled the pandemic, one year on

  How China tackled the pandemic, one year on The world's first coronavirus lockdown began in Wuhan a year ago - how has China changed since then?At the time, the wider world was shocked by the harsh restrictions and rigid enforcement. From late January until June, the city was effectively sealed off from the rest of the country.

A World Health Organization ( WHO ) team is set to come out of quarantine and begin their long-awaited probe into the origins of the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan . The scientists will begin interviewing people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market linked to the initial outbreak. The group of 13 experts had arrived in Wuhan on 14 January, and are preparing to end their two-week quarantine on Thursday. While in quarantine , the team had been in video calls with each other and Chinese scientists.

A two-member advance team of the World Health Organization ( WHO ) dispatched to Wuhan to probe the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak will undertake preliminary work with local scientists, the agency’s emergencies chief has said. As well as seriously impacting global healthcare and national economies, the ongoing outbreak has heavily impacted the WHO itself, with the organization having been criticized for not labeling the novel coronavirus a pandemic much sooner. Both the health body and China ’ s authorities have denied accusations that they were involved in any cover-up of Covid-19

By Gabriel Crossley

a person holding a banana: Hotel where WHO team members tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are quarantined, in Wuhan © Reuters/THOMAS PETER Hotel where WHO team members tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are quarantined, in Wuhan

WUHAN, China (Reuters) - A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic was expected to leave its quarantine hotel on Thursday to begin fieldwork, two weeks after arriving in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged in late 2019.

a person sitting in front of a building: Hotel where WHO team members tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are quarantined, in Wuhan © Reuters/THOMAS PETER Hotel where WHO team members tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are quarantined, in Wuhan

The mission has been plagued by delay, concerns over access and bickering between China and the United States, which has accused Beijing of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and has criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

Pride and caution in Wuhan on lockdown anniversary

  Pride and caution in Wuhan on lockdown anniversary Exactly one year after it thrust the word "lockdown" into the global conversation, Wuhan passed the anniversary with a mix of pride at emerging from Covid-19's grip and caution over a possible relapse. Huang Genben, 76, spent 67 days in hospital fighting Covid-19 last year, spitting up blood and expecting to die. "When I closed my eyes at night I didn't know if I would open them again," Huang told AFP.Like many of his countrymen, he expresses pride at the "great efforts" made by China's government and citizens to contain the pandemic, exemplified by Wuhan.

Wuhan is China ' s fifth-largest city and more than 3,200 square miles in size. By comparison, New York City has about 8 million people — nearly 3 million fewer than Wuhan . The city is split into three districts: Hankou, Wuchang, and Hanyang, with rivers cutting between them. Many people work in one district and live Travelers leaving Wuhan before the quarantine went into effect all had their temperatures checked. But Eric Toner, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University, told Business Insider that given the number of coronavirus cases already, "any sort of travel restrictions are likely to be ineffective."

Contact Tracing China has a policy of meticulous case and contact identification for COVID-19. For example, in Wuhan more than 1800 teams of epidemiologists, with a minimum of 5 people/ team , are tracing tens of thousands of contacts a day. The Joint Team noted that attention to the prevention of infection in health care workers is of paramount importance in China . Surveillance among health care workers identified factors early in the outbreak that placed HCW at higher risk of infection, and this information has been used to modify policies to improve protection of HCW.

Hotel where WHO team members tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are quarantined, in Wuhan © Reuters/THOMAS PETER Hotel where WHO team members tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are quarantined, in Wuhan

"Slightly sad to say goodbye to my 'gym' & my 'office' where I’ve been holed up for last 2 wks!!," team member Peter Daszak tweeted, along with photos of exercise equipment and a desk in his hotel room.

"Moving into next phase of work now w/@WHO mission team & China counterparts," he said.

Journalists outside the team's quarantine hotel were kept away from the entrance by yellow barriers.

The team, which worked by videoconference while in quarantine, is led by Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO's top expert on animal diseases that cross to other species, and is expected to remain in China for two more weeks.

Five days that shaped the outbreak

  Five days that shaped the outbreak Before Wuhan was locked down in January 2020 officials said the outbreak was under control - but the virus had spread inside and outside the city.This is the story of five critical days early in the outbreak.

New coronavirus clusters have been reported in Wuhan city - where the virus first emerged - and the north-eastern province of Jilin in China . Health authorities and experts have warned that as countries emerge from strict lockdowns and people move around more freely, a rise in infections is likely. The small Wuhan cluster is the first to emerge since the end of the strict lockdown on 8 April. One of the five cases reported on Monday was the wife of an 89-year-old man who became the first confirmed case in the city in well over a month on Sunday.

In an attempt to contain the Wuhan coronavirus , China issued the largest quarantine in human history, locking down an estimated 45 million people. The virus has now killed more than 360 people and spread to at least 24 countries. The US announced plans to temporarily bar foreign nationals who have been to China in the past But the quarantine didn't do much to contain the disease. By the end of June, the first case of Cholera was reported in the city, and by the end of the epidemic, over 3,500 people had died. Plus, 70,000 people left New York, spreading the disease to other parts of the country.

The WHO has tried to manage expectations for the investigation.

"There are no guarantees of answers," WHO emergency chief Mike Ryan told reporters earlier this month. "It is a difficult task to fully establish the origins and sometimes it can take two or three or four attempts to be able to do that in different settings."

The origins of COVID-19 have been highly politicised.

The investigating team had been set to arrive in Wuhan earlier in January, and China's delay of their visit drew rare public criticism from the head of the WHO, which former U.S. President Donald Trump accused of being "China-centric" early in the outbreak.

China has been pushing a narrative that the virus existed abroad before it was discovered in Wuhan, with state media citing the presence of the virus on imported frozen food packaging and scientific papers claiming it had been circulating in Europe in 2019.

China's foreign ministry has also hinted on several occasions that the sudden closure of the U.S. army laboratory at Fort Detrick in July 2019 is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

A man surnamed Lei who was gathering discarded shared bicycles into a truck outside of the quarantine hotel said it was not a certainty that the virus had originated in China.

"People are saying that the virus came from other countries," he said. "I'm really not sure.”

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Wuhan next-of-kin say China silencing them as WHO visits .
Relatives of Wuhan's coronavirus dead on Wednesday said Chinese authorities have deleted their social media group and are pressuring them to keep quiet while a World Health Organization team is in the city to investigate the pandemic's origins. The effort has thus far been thwarted by official obstruction, monitoring of social media groups and intimidation, say next-of-kin. But pressure has escalated in recent days, apparently to muzzle any criticism and avoid embarrassment during the highly sensitive WHO investigation.

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