WHO team studying COVID-19’s Wuhan origins exits quarantine

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Jan. 28 (UPI) — A team of experts with the World Health Organization on Thursday completed their two-week quarantine in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where they are to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

“So proud to graduate from our 14 days ‘isolation quarantine,'” team member Peter Daszak tweeted early Thursday. “No one went stir crazy & we’ve been [very] productive!”

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The team arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 14 to begin their quarantine following months of delays and negotiations between the WHO and Chinese officials.

The mission was launched in May when the WHO approved a resolution led by the European Union and Australia to establish an independent probe of the virus’ origins despite China’s pushback and claims one was unnecessary.

The resolution was spearheaded as both China and the WHO came under scrutiny over their handling of the early outbreak of COVID-19.

The United States, in particular, chastised both, accusing China of covering up its initial outbreak and the WHO of aiding it in doing so.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the U.N. health body in response, a move that has since been reversed through an executive order signed by President Joe Biden.

At least two members set off for the city earlier this month but were rerouted once it was learned they wouldn’t be able to enter the country due to visa issues.

During their quarantine, members of the WHO team said they were busy with work.

“Surprisingly easy to do 14 days in quarantine, the high workload meant days have sailed by,”said Daszak.

Peter Ben Embarek, who leads the WHO team, tweeted that meetings held 10 to 13 hours a day along with emails and discussions meant there was little time for much else.

“A bit of exercise early morning in the room or during some of the online meetings,” he said.

On Jan. 14, when WHO announced the team had finally arrived in Wuhan, the U.N. health body tweeted that once their quarantine protocol was complete the members “will begin their work immediately.”

Prior to the team leaving, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters the team will work to identify the source of the early infections.

“This is important not just for COVID-19 but for the future of global health security and to manage emerging disease threats with pandemic potential,” he said.

Wuhan is ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic, home to a seafood market where the first cases of COVID-19 are connected.

The team will be working in coordination with Chinese authorities, China has said.