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China, WHO in talks on plans to trace coronavirus origin

The two sides will further investigated the possible animal source, intermediate host and transmission route of the coronavirus.

BEIJING, China — China and the World Health Organization are discussing plans to trace the origin of the coronavirus outbreak following a visit to the country by two experts from the U.N. agency, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters the experts conducted “preparatory consultations on scientific research cooperation on virus tracing” during their two-week stay, which ended Sunday.

Their talks touched on research in the areas of population, environment, molecules, animal traceability and transmission routes of the coronavirus, as well as plans for further scientific research, Wang said.

The two sides also further investigated the possible animal source, intermediate host and transmission route of the coronavirus to “more effectively prevent and control the epidemic,” Wang said.

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Wang said the two sides worked on formulating a plan for China’s contribution to the global tracing effort under a resolution passed by the World Health Assembly under WHO. No word was given on when that effort will begin in earnest.

The virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has been linked to a wholesale food market where wild animals were sold. Scientists think it likely jumped from a wild animal such as a bat to humans via an intermediary species, possibly the anteater-like pangolin.

However, China says a full investigation may have to wait until the pandemic is under control and has rejected accusations that it delayed releasing information to WHO at the start of the outbreak.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The United States has more than 4.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

Just after 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the U.S. more than 155,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 18 million confirmed cases with nearly 700,000 deaths.