Peter Daszak (R), Vladimir G. Dedkov (L) and other members of WHO team investigating the origins of the Covid-19, leave the Hubei Center for animal disease control and prevention in Wuhan.
Peter Daszak (R), Vladimir G. Dedkov (L) and other members of WHO team investigating the origins of the Covid-19, leave the Hubei Center for animal disease control and prevention in Wuhan.
AFP

Wuhan: A World Health Organization team of international experts visited an animal disease center in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Tuesday as part of their investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Team member Peter Daszak, a zoologist with the EcoHealth Alliance, said "excellent facilities, very informative meeting" from an open window as the group left the center in minivans.

He also tweeted that they had met with staff in charge of livestock health in Hubei province, toured laboratories and had an in-depth discussion along with questions and answers. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei.

Further details of the visit were not announced in what has been a tightly controlled trip, with the media only able to glimpse the team coming and going from its hotel and site visits.

The team members wore full protective gear during Tuesday's visit.

It's not clear if they wore similar full-body suits at the research institutes, hospitals and markets they visited on previous days. Outside their hotel and en route to and from visits, the experts have worn masks and professional or business casual attire.

Intense negotiations preceded the WHO visit to Wuhan, where the first COVID-19 cases were detected in late 2019. China has maintained strict controls on access to information about the virus, possibly to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the Chinese government had provided significant support and assistance to the WHO team, responding to criticism that China has not revealed much about what the researchers are being allowed to do.

"The Chinese experts have shared a lot of information and research results with the WHO team, and they had several rounds of in-depth exchanges on scientific issues of common concern," he said.

On Monday, WHO officials in Geneva pushed back against suggestions China is being less than forthcoming about how the pandemic started.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO emergencies chief, dismissed critics who said any report from the mission would be incomplete. The team "deserves the support of the international community," he said.

The data the team assembles will add to what is expected to be a years-long quest for answers involving taking animal samples, genetic analysis and epidemiological studies.

China has largely stopped domestic transmission of the virus through sometimes draconian measures, including strict testing and electronic surveillance. Mask wearing in public is standard and lockdowns are routinely imposed on communities and even entire cities where cases are detected.

Schools have gone online and travel has been drastically cut during this month's Lunar New Year holiday, with the government offering incentives for people to stay put in the cities rather than return to their home towns for family gatherings.

Global Covid-19 cases top 103.3 mn

Washington: The total number of global coronavirus cases has topped 103.3 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 2.23 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Tuesday morning, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload and death toll stood at 103,378,964 and 2,236,559, respectively.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 26,307,963 and 443,186, respectively, according to the CSSE.

India comes in second place in terms of cases at 10,757,610.

The other countries with more than a million confirmed coronavirus cases are Brazil (9,229,322), the UK (3,846,851), Russia (3,825,739), France (3,260,308), Spain (2,822,805), Italy (2,560,957), Turkey (2,485,182), Germany (2,232,327), Colombia (2,104,506), Argentina (1,933,853), Mexico (1,864,260), Poland (1,515,889), South Africa (1,456,309), Iran (1,424,596), Ukraine (1,263,833), Peru (1,138,239) and Indonesia (1,089,308), the CSSE figures showed.

Brazil currently accounts for the second highest number of Covid-19 fatalities at 225,099, followed by Mexico (158,536) on the third place and India (154,392) on the fourth.

Meanwhile, the nations with a death toll above 20,000 are the UK (106,774), Italy (88,845), France (76,657), Russia (72,456), Spain (59,081), Iran (58,038), Germany (57,496), Colombia (54,272), Argentina (48,249), South Africa (44,399), Peru (41,026), Poland (37,222), Indonesia (30,277), Turkey (26,117), Ukraine (23,931) and Belgium (21,092).

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