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U.S., international scientists arrive in Wuhan, but unclear whether allowed to gather evidence

The group of WHO-sent scientists includes zoologist Peter Daszak of the U.S. group EcoHealth Alliance.

coronavirus Wuhan
Team of WHO-backed scientists arrived in Wuhan, China. Jan. 14, 2021.
(NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)
Updated: January 14, 2021 - 9:00am

A team of World Health Organization-backed researchers arrived Thursday in Wuhan, China, to try to learn more about how the coronavirus started in the city in late 2019.

The team, sent by the WHO, includes zoologist Peter Daszak of the U.S. group EcoHealth Alliance, according to the Associated Press.

While the team will try to learn exactly how the virus started, it’s unclear whether members will ever have a definitive answer.

A spokesman for the country’s ruling Communist Chinese Party said this week the team of international scientists will “exchange views” with Chinese scientists but gave no indication whether they would be allowed to gather evidence.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government allowed the scientists to visit after months of diplomatic wrangling.

Scientists suspect the virus that has so far killed more than 1.9 million people jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest. 

The ruling Communist Party, facing international criticism alleging leaders allowed the virus to spread, argue it came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, a claim international scientists have rejected.

The team of scientists, as many as 15 – also from Australia, Britain, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Qatar and Vietnam – must quarantine for two weeks before they begin their work, the wire service also reports.