China has blocked the arrival of a team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) sent to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which allegedly started in Wuhan in 2019. China claims that the team's visas have not yet been approved.
WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was not pleased with China's blockage. He expressed his dismay in a statement and urged China to allow the WHO team to enter the country. "I'm very disappointed with this news, given that two members have already begun their journeys, and others were not able to travel at the last minute," Ghebreyesus said.
"But I have been in contact with senior Chinese officials. And I have once again made it clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team," the Director-General added.
For the past few months, WHO has been attempting to send a team of health experts from across the world to China. The organisation has been engaged in talks with Chinese government since July regarding this. Scientists have repeatedly stated that finding out how the virus jumped species into humans in extremely essential, according to The Guardian.
The WHO team was expected to visit Wuhan where the first cases of the virus had emerged in 2019. The team also intends to investigate the claim that the coronavirus originated from a Chinese lab. Dr Mike Ryan, who works for WHO, has stated that the team had been working very closely with their Chinese colleagues for planning the trip to China.
"We were all operating on the understanding the team will begin deployment today [Tuesday]," he said. Two members of the team had even begun their journey to China, Ryan added. It has been made clear to them that the Chinese authorities have not approved their visas yet.
"We did not want to put people in the air unnecessarily if there wasn't a guarantee of their arrival in China being successful," said Ryan. "Dr Tedros has taken immediate action and has spoken with senior Chinese officials and has fully impressed upon them the absolute critical nature of this."
The WHO expert further added, "This is frustrating and, as the director general said, disappointing. That disappointment has been expressed very clearly by Dr Tedros directly to our counterparts in China. We trust that in good faith, we can solve these issues in the coming hours and recommence the deployment of the team as urgently as possible".