China is dragging its heels in accepting help on the ground from international health specialists, diplomats and experts have said.
Four days after a World Health Organization (WHO) advance team arrived in Beijing, no details have been released on how and when the full mission will deploy.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, won a pledge from Chinese president Xi Jinping during his trip there two weeks ago that an international team would be able to help investigate the virus’ origin and spread.
An “advance team” of three experts, led by Dr Bruce Aylward, a WHO official and public health emergency expert from Canada, as well as WHO’s Dr Maria van Kerkhove, arrived in Beijing on Monday.
Tedros said the full mission would include 10-15 experts, but has given no details of who they would be or when they would go to China.
“It would obviously have been better if the (mission) team had arrived without delay,” a senior Western diplomat in Geneva told Reuters, though he added they could still do effective work with Chinese colleagues when they arrive. He added:
It’s just been very worrying and troubling and we are not seeing as much of a substantive and independent role that we would expect at this point.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday it had not yet been invited to send experts to China to assist with the WHO investigation.
“Not only was China very late in inviting international partners to help with the response, but we still only have a skeletal advance team in Beijing, and not Hubei province,” Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown Law, told Reuters.
“It appears that China has not accepted the US offer of on the ground CDC experts, which is unfortunate. CDC has among the most experienced first responders,” he added.
WHO officials have said that Chinese authorities have been open and cooperative, sharing data throughout the outbreak.