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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: WHO Team Seeks Coronavirus Answers in Wuhan

AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

An international group of scientists is heading to Wuhan, China next month to find out more about the initial outbreak of COVID-19. That word comes from the World Health Organization -- which is putting together the research trip.


It's been nearly a year since the Health Commission in Wuhan, China notified local hospitals about a "pneumonia of an unknown cause."

A doctor at Wuhan Central Hospital was soon reprimanded for warning colleagues about a possible outbreak of a new disease. Within weeks, he was dead from the novel coronavirus.

The World Health Organization sent a team to Wuhan in late January, saying the "delegation and its counterparts" agreed on the importance of handwashing and "avoiding mass gatherings where possible."

Two days later, Wuhan was under lockdown. But because of the approaching Lunar New Year holiday, some 5 million people had already left the city -- many of them taking the novel coronavirus with them.

Early investigations connected the spread of the virus to a market in the city selling live animals, but many questions linger.

China has opposed any independent investigation of the origin of the virus, and has lashed out at countries calling for it -- including Australia.

A biologist traveling to Wuhan next month as part of the WHO team told the Associated Press the goal of the trip is not to fix blame, but "it's about trying to understand what happened and then see if, based on those data, we can try to reduce the risk in the future."

One question scientists want to answer is whether the virus started in Wuhan or originally came from somewhere else.

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