Is China Denying Entry to the WHO?

The coronavirus pandemic succeeded in bringing the entire world economy to a grinding halt for nearly a full calendar year. Researchers are now dedicated to not only stopping the current pandemic, but to studying the virus that caused it in order to better understand what happened and hopefully stop another crisis from occurring.

After much negotiation, the World Health Organization (WHO) finally thought they had arrived at an agreement with Chinese officials to allow entry for a team of global scientists dedicated to investigation the originations of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.

Unfortunately, two scientists on the research team had already left for China when they received notice that the Chinese government had not approved their entry. What happened? Here’s what you need to know:

An Approved Independent Inquiry

Many countries around the world, led by the United States and Australia in particular, have been vocal in their criticism of China’s initial handling of the pandemic. They have accused the country of withholding information, downplaying the severity of the pandemic, and underreporting initial case numbers to paint a more positive picture.

In May of 2020, the World Health Organization voted to hold an independent inquiry into the overall global response to the pandemic. Though China was not officially singled out, it was no secret that other countries criticized the Chinese response. Chinese President Xi Jinping initially voiced support of an inquiry, though he did recommend delaying it until the virus could be more effectively contained.

Now, however, the country has recently been voicing doubt over the origins of the virus, suggesting it may have entered the country on packaging from foreign countries, including auto parts and other products, or that a more likely scenario might be multiple spontaneous outbreaks in various locations around the world. Experts doubt the validity of a claim that foreign packaging and products may have brought the virus to China, noting that the risk is quite low and that contracting COVID-19 from food or packaging is highly unlikely.

WHO Officials Hopeful

Officials involved in putting together the investigative research team are hopeful that the delay in entry to China is a simple bureaucratic error. Hopefully, approval of the research team’s entry into the country will be imminent.

Upon arrival, researchers will examine the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and other similar wet markets in Wuhan as well as medical facilities. They also have plans to interview some of the earliest COVID-19 patients. Once those initial investigations are complete, the research team will expand outward to other parts of China to conduct additional research.