A team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing to travel to China to investigate the original source of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
The team of 10 expects to start its four-to-five-week mission next month in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak was first reported, reports the Associated Press.
They will examine samples and medical data to try and determine how and where the virus was transmitted from animals to humans for the first time.
“It’s really not about finding a guilty country,” said team member Fabian Leendertz, a biologist at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute who specialises in emerging diseases. “It’s about trying to understand what happened and then see if we can try to reduce the risk in the future.”
Leendertz told Euronews that one of the lines of inquiry for his team would be into the seafood market in Wuhan, which has been repeatedly highlighted as a potential origin.
Discussions on the origins of the virus have sparked political disputes and claims of cover-ups and corruption between a number of countries, most notably between China and US President Donald Trump.
“It may be that it was just the first mega spreading event or one of the first,” Leendertz said. “We’ll see where the Wuhan track leads us, if it’s another city or if it stays in Wuhan or where that goes.”
The German researcher, who was previously part of a mission to find the original source of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, said that while he would love the Covid-19 search to be “an Indiana Jones mission”, it was more of “a team effort with Chinese colleagues to help identify the necessary next steps and how to continue.”
The search for the new coronavirus is expected to be complex as, unlike Ebola, symptoms of Covid-19 can sometimes share many similarities with other common illnesses.