In Brief

WHO tasks team of top scientists with tracing origins of Covid-19

Ten experts including England’s former deputy chief medical officer will travel to Wuhan ‘as soon as possible’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed the line-up of a crack team of experts who will travel to China on a mission to trace the origins of the virus that has devastated countries worldwide.

The ten scientists include England’s ex-deputy chief medical officer John Watson and “will work with Chinese experts to investigate how Covid-19 jumped from animals to humans”, reports The Telegraph.

An initial virtual meeting was held at the end of October between the WHO team and their Chinese counterparts, who have since maintained contact through “regular zoom calls”, said Dr Mike Ryan, head of the UN health agency’s emergencies programme.

“We fully expect and have reassurances from our Chinese government colleagues that the trip… will be facilitated as soon as possible in order that the international community can be reassured of the quality of the science,” he added.  

“We need to start where we found the first cases - and that is in Wuhan in China - and then we need to follow the evidence after that wherever that leads.” 

The WHO identified tracking the origins of Covid-19 as a “priority research area” back in February, but “has been quick to temper expectations” about how quickly the project will be concluded, says The Telegraph.

As the Daily Mail notes, “it took more than a year for scientists to prove Mers, another coronavirus, originated in camels in Saudi Arabia”, and “even longer” to track Sars back to bats in a cave in southern China.

The Covid hunters will begin their mission at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, which “has been touted as the original epicenter of the disease”, the paper adds.

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