The head of the World Health Organization issued a rare rebuke of the Chinese government on Tuesday, saying that it was “disappointing” that authorities there have delayed allowing a team of scientists into the country to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus.
“Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO chief, said at a press conference held in Geneva, the Associated Press reported.
“I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute.”
A team of 10 scientists is slated to visit Wuhan, the origin of the coronavirus outbreak last year. The delay comes in the wake of a new report that raises the question of whether the virus originated from a science lab in Wuhan. (RELATED: Did Coronavirus Come From A Lab In Wuhan? 10 Key Takeaways From A Shocking New Report)
Tedros said at the press conference that he had been “assured” that China “is speeding up the internal procedures for the earliest possible deployment.”
“We are eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible,” he said.
WHO and Tedros have been criticized for accepting Chinese officials’ claims about the coronavirus. On Jan. 14, WHO’s Twitter account circulated Chinese officials’ now-debunked claim that the virus was not transmitted through person-to-person contact.
Republicans in the U.S. have faulted WHO for not aggressively confronting the Chinese regime over misleading statements about the transmission of the virus in the early days of the pandemic. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off U.S. government funding for WHO, citing its soft posture towards China.
Tedros was also an early critic of President Donald Trump’s decision last January to shut down travel from China to the U.S.
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