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Australia urges China to allow WHO team entry "without delay"

Australia urges China to allow WHO team entry "without delay"

Australia on Thursday urged China to give access to World Health Organization (WHO) officials investigating the origins of COVID-19 "without delay", as China said it was still trying to "create the conditions" for the visit of the experts.

"We hope that the necessary permits for the WHO team's trip to China can be issued without delay," said Marise Payne, Australia's foreign minister.

She reiterated the importance of the scientific study convened by the WHO, saying: "We look forward to the findings of the international field mission to China."

The WHO expert team was due to be in China this month to investigate how the pandemic started and was scheduled to visit the central city of Wuhan, where the then "mysterious" disease first appeared in late 2019. More than 87 million people around the world have done it now. has been diagnosed with what is known as COVID-19, which has killed nearly 1.9 million people.

Earlier this week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was "very disappointed" to discover that China had not yet authorized the entry of the international expert team. Two of the 10-person team had already started their journey when the problem came to light, he said.

At a press conference on Wednesday, China said it was still discussing the details of the visit, the terms of reference, developed in consultation with China, were released last year.

"We hope that the specific dates and arrangements of his visit can be decided as soon as possible through our discussions," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a press conference in Beijing.

"Tracing the origin is a very complicated business," she added. "To ensure that the work of the international experts runs smoothly, we must undergo the necessary procedures and make specific arrangements.

Although China is battling a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 in Hebei province, where mass testing of the city's 11 million residents has begun, the virus has been brought under control and life has largely returned to normal. .

Australia, which has seen its relations with China deteriorate in recent months, has been a prominent voice in calling for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19. The outgoing US President Donald Trump has also been critical of China and its handling of the pandemic.

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