WHO China mission set to begin as US demands 'robust' virus origin probe
World Health Organization experts emerged from quarantine in China Thursday to begin a long-awaited investigation into the origins of the devastating coronavirus pandemic, which has shown no signs of slowing down.
Global infections have shot past 100 million and governments are scrambling to get their hands on scarce vaccine doses, with a bitter row erupting between the European Union and Britain over the supply of AstraZeneca shots.
Beijing has so far frustrated international efforts to track the origins of the virus, which has killed more than 2.1 million people globally, and only recently allowed the WHO team into China after repeated delays.
The experts left their Wuhan quarantine hotel in a bus, wearing masks and peering at the media crowded outside, but it was not confirmed when they will get to start their investigation in the ground-zero city, or what they will be allowed to see.
China has sought to deflect blame for the massive global human and economic toll by suggesting -- without proof -- that the virus emerged somewhere else. It has also been enraged by calls led by the United States and Australia for an independent probe.
"It's imperative that we get to the bottom of the early days of the pandemic in China, and we've been supportive of an international investigation that we feel should be robust and clear," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
She also expressed concern about the "misinformation" from "some sources in China".
Beijing shot back Thursday, warning against "political interference" in the WHO mission.
Relatives of those who died in Wuhan have accused Chinese authorities of deleting their social media group and putting pressure on them to keep quiet, apparently to avoid any embarrassment during the WHO probe.