The WHO team in Wuhan has received never-before-seen data about the coronavirus, Dr Peter Daszak, who is a member of the team, told Sky News on Wednesday.
Dr Daszak underscored the importance of cooperation with the Chinese scientists who have been working in Wuhan ever since the pandemic outbreak more than a year ago.
"They are sharing data with us that we have not seen before - that no one has seen before. They are talking with us openly about every possible pathway. We really are getting somewhere and I think every member of the team would say that", the scientist said without getting into details, as cited by Sky News.
To date, the team has already visited multiple sites, including a local seafood market where the first case of COVID-19 was reportedly registered, as well as local hospitals where first coronavirus patients were treated. In the words of Dr Daszak, the possibility to work on site provides the team with information of vital importance.
"We are in the market looking around on our own and asking questions, we are meeting with market managers, with vendors who worked there and people from the community and asking them questions… That's the sort of information we are getting with the person that really matters", he said.
Ahead of the mission’s arrival in Wuhan, there was a spat between Chinese officials and the WHO over visa issues. Two members of the team were blocked from entering China as their visas had not been approved, so the whole mission was put on hold. A week later, the issue was resolved and the team finally arrived in Wuhan on 14 January.
As of now, relations between China and the WHO over probing the origin of the deadly virus seem to be smoother, as Dr Daszak praised the cooperation with local officials.
"I think China is open and willing to work with us and we are seeing that every day", he said.
According to local media reports, the WHO team visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology on Wednesday. The institute has been linked to multiple conspiracy theories suggesting that the coronavirus may have leaked from the P4 lab where thousands of coronavirus samples were collected and stored. Chinese authorities have consistently denied such allegations.
One of the most prominent researchers of the institute, Shi Zhengli, has previously worked with Dr Daszak, who has also maintained a working relationship with the institute.
"My relationship with China, my work here, my connections to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and Shi Zhengli are very well known. And they're really well known because I've spent 20 years or 15 years publishing the data. I think that's a pretty worthwhile thing that we've been doing", the scientist concluded.
On 17 December, WHO announced it would dispatch a special mission to Wuhan to investigate the origins of COVID-19. The mission is expected to last for six weeks, including two weeks of quarantine.