Wed, 20 Jan 2021

WHO Team to Investigate Coronavirus Origins in China

Voice of America
11 Jan 2021, 20:35 GMT+10

The World Health Organization is sending a team of international experts to China this week to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.

It was not immediately clear, however, if the experts, scheduled to arrive Thursday, will be allowed to travel to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originally emerged in late 2019.

"It's very important that as the WHO is in the lead in fighting the pandemic, that it also has a leading role in trying to look back at the roots of this pandemic so we can be better prepared for the next one," United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said about the team's travel to China.

China's announcement Monday about the WHO team's imminent arrival came on the same day China announced 103 new COVID-19 cases, the country's biggest jump in infections in more than five months.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States has been fraught with problems, according to an Associated Press report.

Gianfranco Pezzino, who was the public health officer in Shawnee County, Kansas, until his recent retirement, told AP, "The recurring theme is the lack of a national strategy and the attempt to pass the buck down the line, lower and lower, until the poor people at the receiving end have nobody else that they can send the buck to."

The British variant of the COVID-19 virus, thought by scientists to be much more contagious, has been found in France and Russia, according to news reports Sunday.

Russia, which has recorded more than 3 million cases of the virus, had already suspended flights from Britain until January 13 and is mandating a two-week isolation period for those traveling from Britain.

Meanwhile, Britain continues to grapple with high numbers of cases and deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, with many hospitals at capacity while lockdowns are in effect.

"The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically," London Mayor Sadiq Khan said over the weekend.

The British variant of the virus has been found in 45 countries and at least eight states in the U.S. Another variant of the virus discovered in South Africa was found in some positive cases in Ireland Sunday.

Yet a third new variant has been found in Japan in travelers from Brazil. The Brazil variant is different from the British and South African variants, but the three share a common mutation.

While the variants are worrisome, they are not unexpected. The coronavirus has made thousands of tiny modifications since it was first discovered, researchers say.

The African continent confirmed a total of 3 million cases of the virus on Sunday, as many countries are beginning to mark a second wave of infections and impose restrictions.

On Sunday, Algeria registered Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus for use, the first African country to do so, Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund said.

Algeria's president was flown to Germany on Sunday for treatment of complications from COVID-19.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said early Monday that there are more than 90 million global COVID-19 cases. The U.S. has the most with 22.4 million, followed by India with 10.4 million and Brazil with 8.1 million.

Worldwide, nearly two million people have died.

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