The World Health Organization said a scouting team of global experts arrived in China Monday to help the government combat the new virus from Wuhan, as the public arm of the U.N. launches a parallel effort to understand the makeup of the virus and how it infected humans.
The full team of health experts will arrive in China shortly and be led by Bruce Aylward, a Canadian epidemiologist.
“We’re grateful for the many people who have volunteered their expertise from all over the world,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.
Earlier in the outbreak, it was unclear if Beijing would accept outside experts or if the communist government wanted to project the idea it could handle the response all on its own.
Mr. Ghebreyesus said the team will not be micromanaged from WHO headquarters in Switzerland.
“We have fully empowered them,” he said. “These are experienced people, and they know what to do.”
WHO is also hosting a two-day research forum in Geneva this week to get a better handle on the scientific nature of the novel coronavirus. It was traced back to a live-animal market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, though scientists say there is a lot to learn about its origins and how it spreads.
There have been 40,235 cases and 909 deaths reported in mainland China.
Outside of China, there have been 319 confirmed cases in 24 countries. One man died in the Philippines after traveling there from China.
“The overall pattern has not changed. 99% of reported [coronavirus] cases are in China, and most cases are mild. About 2% of cases are fatal, which of course is still too many,” Mr. Ghebreyesus said.
The director-general also said he is aware of alarming new infections in Europe, referring to a man who reportedly spread the virus to British persons in France after contracting the virus in Singapore.
The man hadn’t traveled to China, personally, and WHO officials want to avoid this type of “onward transmission.”
“But for now, it’s only a spark. Our objective remains containment,” Mr. Ghebreyesus said.
In China, meanwhile, President Xi Jinping vowed to prevent widespread layoffs from the virus in his first appearance among the public since the outbreak began, according to Reuters.
The outlet reported that Mr. Xi, who’d delegated the response effort to Premier Li Keqiang, visited a hospital in Beijing and chatted by video with front-line workers in Wuhan.