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China Grants Access to Team Tracking COVID Source

International scientists will start search in Wuhan
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2020 4:43 PM CST

(Newser) – A World Health Organization team investigating the source of COVID-19 will visit Wuhan next month, more than a year after the first cases were detected in the central China city. It has taken many months of negotiations for the international team of scientists to be granted access to the city, the BBC reports. Scientists believe the virus originated in animals in China, probably bats, before jumping to humans. At one point, a wet market in Wuhan was thought to be where the first infections happened, but earlier cases have been detected and scientists now believe the market outbreak was a super-spreader event, possibly one of several, that amplified a virus already in circulation, the Guardian reports.

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One of the mission members is Fabian Leendertz, a German biologist who specializes in emerging diseases. "It’s really not about finding a guilty country," he tells the AP. "It’s about trying to understand what happened and then see if based on those data, we can try to reduce the risk in the future." He says the team plans to see if stored medical samples have evidence of early COVID infections. "Then to see where that track leads us, if it’s another city or if it stays in Wuhan or where that goes." The BBC notes that the US and other countries have criticized China for a lack of transparency in the early stages of the pandemic. Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor who tried to warn colleagues about the emerging threat last December, was questioned by police and forced to sign a statement admitting "illegal activity." He died from the virus on Feb. 7. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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