China says that it remains in close contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) about finalizing arrangements for a visit to Wuhan by an international panel of experts who will investigate the origin of Covid-19.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that two scientists on the United Nations (UN) team had already left their home countries for Wuhan when they were told that Chinese officials had not approved the necessary permissions to enter the country.
“I am very disappointed with this news,” Tedros told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday, in a rare direct rebuke.
The WHO said on Tuesday that arrangements had been jointly agreed with China in advance of the trip.
WHO officials have long been negotiating with Beijing to allow a team of global scientists access to key sites to investigate the origin of the virus — first detected in Wuhan in December 2019.
The scientists’ visit was agreed between China and the WHO in October, and the experts and their Chinese counterparts had been in touch via zoom.
“Perhaps there is some misunderstanding,” Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press briefing Wednesday.
Hua added: “According to my understanding, the two sides are still in close communication about details relating to the specific dates and arrangements for the international expert group to come to China.”
“We hope that through the communication between the two sides, we can finalize the arrangements as soon as possible and continue to promote cooperation.”
Hua also said that China “has been maintaining good and close communication with WHO.”
The spokesperson added that Beijing was still working on creating “good conditions” for the international expert team to come to China to “carry out cooperation on tracing the origin of the virus.”
“In order to ensure that the international expert group that comes to China can work smoothly, it is needed to fulfill the necessary procedures and make relevant specific arrangements. The two sides are still negotiating about this,” Hua said.