On Thursday, Australia urged China to allow the World Health Organisation (WHO) access to Wuhan in order to investigate the origins of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chinese government has asked for time to “create conditions” for the experts’ visit, but Australia is imploring them to allow access without delay.
“We hope that the necessary permissions for the WHO team’s travel to China can be issued without delay,” said Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister, according to Al Jazeera. “We look forward to the findings from the international field mission to China.”
The WHO was expected to investigate how the pandemic began and was set to visit the central city of Wuhan, where the-then “mysterious” illness first appeared late in 2019, on Monday. But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he was “very disappointed” to discover that China had still not authorised the entry of the team of international experts earlier this week. However, the 10-person team discovered that they would not be authorised to enter en route to China.
“We hope that the specific dates and arrangements of their visit can be decided as soon as possible through our discussions,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a news briefing in Beijing.
“The origin-tracing is a very complicated matter,” she added. “To ensure the work of international experts goes smoothly, we need to undergo necessary procedures and make specific arrangements.”
While China initially struggled to contain the pandemic, they enforced strict lockdowns and have recently begun a mass testing campaign for the 11 million residents of the Hubei Province after experience a small bump in infections. However, the virus is somewhat under control in China and life has returned back to normal in many ways in China, according to the Al Jazeera report.
Australia, meanwhile, has been a strong advocate for investigating the origins of the virus, which has somewhat soured their relationship with the Chinese government.