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China tosses more obstacles at WHO team investigating pandemic’s origin

Enlarge / Health workers in personal protection suits stand next to buses at a cordoned-off section of the international airport in Wuhan on January 14, 2021, following the arrival of a World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. (credit: Getty | NICOLAS ASFOURI )

Chinese authorities have held up two scientists sent to Wuhan, China, by the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus—yet another obstacle the Chinese government has thrown at the health agency’s efforts to understand how the devastating pandemic began.

The two scientists were traveling as part of an international team of 15 that has long been working to gain access to the city where the virus first emerged in late 2019. Thirteen of the scientists—who all repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in their home countries—were allowed to travel on. They have now arrived in Wuhan, the WHO said on Twitter earlier today. However, China is still requiring the 13 scientists to undergo a 14-day quarantine in Wuhan.

The two scientists held back also tested negative for the virus multiple times prior to traveling. But while in Singapore en route to Wuhan, they tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, suggesting past exposure to the virus. Despite their negative PCR tests, Chinese authorities had them remain in Singapore for additional testing.

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