The World Health Organization (WHO) will lead an international team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in China starting the first week of January, Reuters reported Wednesday.
The group will include up to 15 international experts charged with determining the origin of the pandemic in Wuhan and how the disease jumped the species barrier, according to Reuters. The investigation comes more than a year after the pandemic began in November 2019. The team will also not be able to gather its own samples, instead relying on human and animal samples collected by Chinese researchers.
The research team will reportedly spend six weeks in China, but will quarantine for the first two. The WHO did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the investigation. (RELATED: China Suppressed The Truth About Coronavirus. Top WHO Officials Keep Praising China’s ‘Transparency’)
The WHO has faced criticism from President Donald Trump and other global leaders for spreading the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) misinformation on coronavirus cases and deaths in the early days of the pandemic. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also delayed declaring COVID-19 a pandemic by one day after receiving calls from Chinese officials pressuring him to do so.
The CCP has repeatedly attempted to shed blame for the pandemic, making baseless allegations that the disease originated in Italy or even with U.S. soldiers travelling in China. (RELATED: Twitter Suspends Chinese Virologist Who Accused China Of Hiding Evidence Of COVID Leaking From A Lab)
The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee released an audit in September that found both China and the WHO covered up data regarding the pandemic. It alleged that China imprisoned journalists and destroyed data on the pandemic that could havee been critical for helping the global community prepare.
“From the early stages of the outbreak, the WHO, under Director-General Tedros’ leadership, parroted and upheld as inviolable truth statements from the CCP,” the committee report read. “An examination of their public statements, including the praise heaped on the CCP’s handling of the pandemic, reveal a disturbing willingness to ignore science and alternative credible sources.”
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about whether the WHO team was adequate for holding China accountable.
The WHO’s parent organization, the United Nations, has sought to determine the origins of past diseases as well. It sent scientists from its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to a Mexican village to investigate the origin of the H1N1 virus in 2009.