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Impasse on WHO virus mission 'not just a visa issue'

Impasse on WHO virus mission 'not just a visa issue'

Delays in a long-planned mission by WHO experts to China to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic "is not just a visa issue," Beijing said on Wednesday.

A year after the outbreak began, international health experts were expected to arrive in China this week for a highly politicized visit to explore the beginnings of the virus, which first emerged late last year in the city of Wuhan.

The sensitive mission has been beset by delays and politics, with fears that Beijing will cover it up.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Wednesday that talks are continuing between the two sides on "the specific date and specific arrangement of the expert group's visit."

"The issue of origin tracing is incredibly complicated. To ensure that the work of the international team of experts in China runs smoothly, we have to carry out the necessary procedures and make the necessary arrangements," Hua said.

He said the country is "doing everything possible to create good conditions for the international group of experts to come to China."

On Tuesday, the head of the World Health Organization told reporters that Beijing had not yet finalized the permit for the team's arrival, saying it was "very disappointed with this news," in a rare reprimand of Beijing by from the UN body.

Earlier this week, Chinese authorities declined to confirm the exact dates and details of the visit, a sign of the mission's enduring sensitivity.

The WHO had previously said that China had granted permission for a visit by a team of 10 people.

Hua said China was "attaching great importance and is actively communicating with the WHO."

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