A World Health Organization advance team has departed for China to begin an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
The new virus, which has infected more than 12.3 million and killed over 555,000 globally, is believed to have originated at a market in Wuhan, China, late last year and made the jump from animal to human.
However, U.S. officials, including President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have suggested that the virus could have originated in a Wuhan laboratory. China has strongly denied the allegations.
WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said Friday that two agency-backed specialists, one in animal health and one in epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to establish the parameters of the inquiry.
“They have gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party that is to work out the scope,” she said during a news briefing.
Ms. Harris explained that “one of the big issues that everybody is interested in, and of course that’s why we’re sending an animal health expert, is to look at whether or not it jumped from species to a human and what species it jumped from.”
She said the WHO believes the virus is similar to the virus in a bat, but it has yet to determine if it was transmitted through an intermediate species.
“This is a question we all need answered,” she said.