Advance team of WHO experts arrives in China to probe coronavirus

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Geneva/London (Reuters): An advance team of World Health Organization medical experts arrived in China on Monday to help investigate the coronavirus outbreak, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Tedros, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last month, returned with an agreement on sending an international mission. It took nearly two weeks to get the green light from the Chinese government on the team, led by Canadian emergency expert Dr. Bruce Aylward.

“Bruce and his colleagues will be working with their Chinese counterparts to make sure we have the right expertise on the team to answer the right questions,” Tedros told a news conference. “We hope the rest of the team will join them as soon as possible. The team could range between 10 and 15,” he said, giving no details on their identities.

There have been 40,235 confirmed cases reported in China and 909 deaths, he said.

Tedros voiced concern at limited incidents, reported by European authorities at the weekend, of person-to-person spread of the virus by people with no history of travel to China.

“In recent days, we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China, like the cases reported in France yesterday and the United Kingdom today,” he said.

“The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire. But for now it’s only a spark. Our objective remains containment.”

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, asked about an international business meeting held at a Singapore hotel on Jan 20-22, said it did not appear to have spread the virus widely.

“No, I think it is way too early and much more of an exaggeration to consider the Singapore conference event a ‘super-spreading event’,” Ryan said.