A team of 13 scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) started fieldwork on Friday after concluding a 14-day quarantine in central China's Wuhan city.
In their first onsite visit, the team went to the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, one of the first hospitals that had treated patients in the early days of the outbreak.
Earlier that day, the WHO experts held the first face-to-face meeting with their Chinese colleagues led by Liang Wannian, a senior official of the country's National Health Commission (NHC).
The team said, on Thursday, it was planning to visit hospitals and markets, such as the Huanan Seafood Market, where the first cases in Wuhan were traced back to.
They also intend to visit research institutions like the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
China cooperates with the WHO on the scientific research
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a news conference in Beijing, on Friday, that the WHO and Chinese experts are working together to trace the origin of the virus. He said they have already held multiple exchanges through video conference and stressed the mission is not a probe.
"I'd like to emphasize that this is a virus-tracing exchange and form of cooperation between the WHO and Chinese experts. It's a part of a global research effort, not an investigation," Zhao said.
He said China has adopted an open, transparent and responsible attitude when it comes to tracing the origins of the novel coronavirus and will continue to cooperate with the WHO to prevent future risks and protect people's safety and health.
On Wednesday, Chinese health minister Ma Xiaowei discussed the cooperation on coronavirus origin tracing on a phone call with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO.
Ma said China will continue to support the WHO research team in carrying out a scientific, objective, comprehensive and balanced assessment of the coronavirus pandemic.
The WHO chief thanked China for its cooperation with the international expert team in Wuhan.
This is the third visit since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic in China. China invited WHO experts twice, in February and July last year, to carry out cooperation on tracing potential sources in China, during which the two sides formulated China part on the global scientific cooperation plan.