A World Health Organization team will finish a two-week quarantine in China on Thursday, starting work on the ground to investigate the origins of Covid-19 in Wuhan, the city where the disease was first identified in late 2019.
The challenges for the 14-member group of specialists go well beyond science. Their mission has been over six months in the making, taking shape as recriminations flew between Washington and Beijing about where the virus came from.
The WHO has stressed the mission is not about apportioning blame. WHO health emergencies programme director Mike Ryan said on Friday: “All hypotheses are on the table and it is definitely too early to come to a conclusion of exactly where this virus started either within or without China.”
The team, both international experts and WHO officials, will work with Chinese scientists to focus on understanding how the earliest patients may have been infected. They will also look at research around a food wet market linked to early known cases, according to the WHO.