Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, has said the country has not stopped the WHO members from entering, saying it was a “misunderstanding”. Investigators from the international health body were not issued visas to enter China, delaying the start of the search for the origins of coronavirus.
Ms Hua insisted China “has always been open and responsible” over coronavirus and the information it holds.
She added in a press briefing: “The origins problem is very complex.
“To ensure that the work of the global experts group in China is successful and to carry out the necessary procedures and relevant concrete plans, currently both sides are still in negotiations on this.
“I understand that it’s not just a visa problem and the actual date and itinerary. Both sides are still in close communication.”
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme, confirmed the delay in starting the investigation was due to visa issues.
He added: “We did not want to put people in the air unnecessarily if there wasn’t a guarantee of their arrival in China being successful.
“Dr Tedros has taken immediate action and has spoken with senior Chinese officials and has fully impressed upon them the absolute critical nature of this.”
Dr Ryan also said the delay was “frustrating” and “disappointing”, and hoped it was “just a logistical and bureaucratic issue” causing the hold up.
Both of the WHO officials also said they were working on the assumption the investigation would begin on Tuesday.
The investigation in China will look at how COVID-19 spread from animals to humans, with Wuhan reporting the first cases of the virus in December 2019.
The origins of the pandemic are deeply contested, with Chinese media outlets recently attempting to claim the virus originated in different countries, such as Australia.