WHO team visits Wuhan market where first virus infections were detected

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    WUHAN, China. — A World Health Organization-led team of experts investigating the origins of COVID-19 visited Huanan market on Sunday, the now-shuttered wholesale seafood center in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the new coronavirus was initially detected.

    The team arrived at Huanan amid heavy security, with additional barricades set up outside a high blue fence surrounding the market, and left in a convoy after about one hour. The experts did not take questions from journalists.

    Since being released from a two-week quarantine on Thursday, the team has visited hospitals and markets, as well as an exhibition commemorating Wuhan’s battle with the virus, which included a 76-day lockdown of the city of 11 million.

    The WHO, which has sought to manage expectations for the mission, said on Friday that team members would be limited to visits organized by their Chinese hosts and would not have any contact with community members, due to health restrictions.

    No full itinerary for the team’s two weeks of field work has been announced, and journalists covering the tightly controlled visit have been kept at a distance from team members.

    Public access to the sprawling Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market has been restricted since it was shut at the beginning of last year.

    Before its closure, the market bustled with hundreds of stalls divided into sections for meat, seafood and vegetables. Now it stands as a landmark in a city that was traumatized as the original epicenter of what became the pandemic.

    On Dec. 31, 2019, after four cases of a mystery pneumonia were linked to the market, it was shuttered overnight. By the end of January, Wuhan had gone into a 76-day lockdown.

    Experts say the Huanan market still plays a role in tracing the origins of the virus, since the first cluster of cases was identified there.