WHO experts arrive in Wuhan as China reports first virus death in 8 months

A team of experts from the World Health Organization arrived in Wuhan on Thursday to start a highly politicised probe into the origins of the coronavirus, as China announced first death from Covid-19 in eight months, news wires reported.

The 10 scientists, who must complete a two-week quarantine in Wuhan before starting their work, arrived for their much-delayed mission to examine the orgins of the pandemic. The virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has since billowed out across the world killing nearly two million people so far, infecting tens of millions and eviscerating the global economy.

It "could be a very long journey before we get a full understanding of what happened", Peter Ben Embarek, who leads WHO mission, said.

Beijing has argued that although Wuhan is where the first cluster of cases was detected, it is not necessarily where the virus originated. "I don't think we will have clear answers after this initial mission, but we will be on the way," Embarek added.

More than 20m people are under lockdown in the north of China and one province has declared an emergency, with Covid-19 numbers climbing after several months of being relatively static. China had largely brought the pandemic under control through strict lockdowns and mass testing. But another 138 infections were reported by the National Health Commission on Thursday, the highest single-day tally since March last year. A first virus fatality in several months was reported in northern Hebei province.

Beijing is anxious to stamp out local clusters ahead of next month's Lunar New Year festival when hundreds of millions of people will be on the move across the country.

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