A team of scientists leading a World Health Organization mission to China to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus is not looking to assign guilt to the communist regime over its failure to prevent the pandemic, a member of the delegation says.
“This is not about finding a guilty country or a guilty authority,” Fabian Leendertz, a scientist at the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s infectious disease agency, told Agence France-Presse (AFP), the French media outlet.
“This is about understanding what happened to avoid that in the future, to reduce the risk.”
Leendertz and a team of 10 other scientists will visit Wuhan, China in January to investigate how the virus jumped from animals to humans, according to AFP.
Most scientists believe that the virus transmitted from an animal to a human at one of Wuhan’s open-air food markets. Western health officials have long criticized the Chinese government for doing little to regulate the food markets, which can be breeding grounds for viruses like the coronavirus.
Health officials in the U.S. have accused the World Health Organization (WHO) of failing to confront Chinese leaders for withholding information about the coronavirus early on in the pandemic.
The WHO said in a statement citing Chinese officials on Jan. 14 that there was no evidence that the virus spread from person-to-person contact. That assurance, which is now known to be false, likely slowed the response of health officials outside China at a crucial point in the pandemic.