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COVID-19 chronicle outlining WHO mission published

An international expert team from the World Health Organization visit an exhibition on how China fought the coronavirus in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, on Jan 30, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

China published a chronicle on Wednesday of its work facilitating a WHO-organized mission to study the origins of the novel coronavirus, offering a detailed look at the open and transparent way it was conducted.

The chronicle starts in July last year, when the World Health Organization and China began laying the groundwork for deepening understanding of the novel coronavirus' origins and reached an agreement on an initial phase of the study in Wuhan, Hubei province.

It ends in late March, after a joint report was released to the public and international and Chinese members of the team held briefings about the investigation results.

While devoting great efforts to reining in local outbreaks, China twice invited international experts to conduct origin-tracing studies, according to the chronicle. The visits to Wuhan were facilitated in a scientific, open, transparent and cooperative manner.

According to the chronicle, at every single venue they visited, the foreign experts had opportunities to communicate with or interview people, ranging from market vendors and community residents, to CDC workers and virologists

A number of online and offline meetings were held between foreign and Chinese experts to exchange available information and come up with a final working plan for on-site activities in Wuhan, it said.

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The joint team's trip to Wuhan covered a number of key facilities, including the hospital that first reported a patient with a mysterious pneumonialike disease and a local infectious diseases hospital that treated a large number of patients severely ill with COVID-19.

The panel also went to the Huanan seafood market, local disease control and prevention centers, a provincial-level animal disease control institution, the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Wuhan Institute of Virology, a blood donation center and some neighborhoods.

Liang Wannian, head of the Chinese experts on the team, said that foreign counterparts visited all the places they wanted to visit and talked to all the people they hoped to meet.

The new document shows that at every single venue they visited, the foreign experts had opportunities to communicate with or interview people, ranging from market vendors and community residents, to CDC workers and virologists.

In particular, the chronicle revealed the extensive discussions that the team had with staff members at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the venue at the center of the so-called laboratory leak conspiracy theory.

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Shi Zhengli, a leading virologist at the institute, gave "an extensive scientific report" on her team's work on coronaviruses circulating in bats. Wang Yanyi, director of the institute, also discussed with international experts the possibility of a lab leak and clarified concerns on its safety protocols, the chronicle said.

Scientists in China and abroad have called for a halt to the politicization of the virus' origins and for enhanced global collaboration to probe earlier traces of infections connected to the virus around the world.