BEIJING (Sputnik) - Two experts of the World Health Organisation (WHO) have arrived in China to study the origin of COVID-19 and the Chinese side is in close contact with them, the country's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said on Monday.
"In accordance with the arrangement between the two sides, the Chinese government agreed that WHO would send its experts to Beijing to collaborate with Chinese scientists over the issue of detecting the source of COVID-19. The two WHO experts have now arrived in China", Hua said at a briefing.
According to the spokeswoman, China and the WHO believe that the origin of the virus is a scientific issue that requires international collaboration and scientific research.
"The WHO also believes that the origin of the virus is a long-term process that can affect many countries. The WHO can also organise similar inspection trips to other countries if necessary", Hua added.
The spokeswoman did not provide details regarding specific activities of the WHO experts in China.
The current coronavirus pandemic started in China in December of last year. Initial reports indicated that the start of the COVID-19 epidemic in China was linked to a market in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei Province.
On Friday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said two WHO experts were heading to collaborate with local scientists to study the transmission of coronavirus from animals to humans. The organisation has said that its scoping mission would set the ground for a larger international mission.
The WHO move comes amid severe criticism by the US and its allies of the organisation. US President Donald Trump, in particular, claims that China's influence in the WHO allowed the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan to morph into a global pandemic, when the disease should have been contained within China. Both Beijing and the UN health agency dismissed the claims.
The origin of the new coronavirus, which has infected nearly 13 million people worldwide and killed over 550,000, remains obscure. It has been linked to bats, civets and pangolins, with scientific studies suggesting it likely resulted from a combination of bat and pangolin coronaviruses.