A team of World Health Organization scientists investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic left their hotel in Wuhan Thursday after completing a two-week quarantine in the central Chinese city.
The 13 team members could be seen on a live television feed walking out of the hotel wearing face masks and boarding a bus, onto which their luggage had been loaded earlier by workers in hazmat suits. The team was waved on its way by hotel staff and Chinese officials.
They will now begin a highly awaited investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019. Speaking to CNN Wednesday, Dutch virologist and team member Marion Koopmans said the “eyes of the world are focused on this, the opinions of the world are focused on this.”
“We are aware of it, there is no way around that. That’s why we really try to keep focused, we are scientists, we are not politicians, we are trying to really look at this from the scientific perspective,” she said.
Part of that involves abandoning all preconceived notions about how the virus evolved and spread, to look at what the evidence says, and go from there, Koopmans said. The team has spent the past two weeks in video calls with each other and Chinese scientists, “discussing what we know, what we don’t know.”
Demand for answers will be great, especially after the investigation itself was delayed several times, but Koopmans cautioned patience.
“I think we really have to manage expectations, if you look at some of the earlier quests for the origins of outbreaks, they have taken years to complete,” she said. “The early and relatively easy studies have been done, have already been published.”