WHO Team Arrives in Wuhan, but Two Stay Behind After Testing Positive

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World Health Organization said all members were negative for PCR, which determines whether a person is now infected with Covid-19.

The results of nucleic acid tests were negative but showed two of the members had coronavirus antibodies, the Geneva-based agency said in a tweet. An antibody test could indicate that a person is in the acute phase of infection when testing positive for the IgM antibody, which is the first wave of antibodies generated to fight infection.

The death comes as China readies for the arrival of an expert team of scientists from the World Health Organization, who will start a politically sensitive investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The mission has been months in the making, but has been dogged by delays.

The team left the airport terminal through a plastic quarantine tunnel marked "epidemic prevention passage" for global arrivals and boarded a cordoned-off bus that was guarded by half a dozen security staff in full protective gear.

Authorities last week launched a mass testing drive and closed transport links, schools and shops in Hebei's capital city Shijiazhuang - the epicentre of the latest outbreak.

Team members did not speak to reporters, although some waved and took pictures of the media from the bus as it departed.

"Current plan is that they will fly from Singapore to Wuhan on January 14", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a media briefing earlier.

The National Health Commission said Thursday, the death occurred on Wednesday in N China's Hebei Province, the most affected region in the country.

And the United Nations health body said Thursday that while most the team had arrived, two members were not allowed to board the flight from Singapore to Wuhan after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies - the latest twist in a long journey to China for the experts.

Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese biologist who is part of the team, told Reuters that he did not expect any restrictions on the group's work in China, but cautioned the team might not find clear answers.

On January 14 the country reported its first new death attributed to COVID-19 in months, raising the toll to 4,635 among 87,844 cases.

The group would mainly stay in Wuhan, he said.

Dr Peter Ben Embarek, who is leading the mission, has a lot of questions about how the global pandemic came about.

WHO has for months been working to send the team of worldwide experts, including epidemiologists and animal health specialists, to China to help probe the animal origin of the novel coronavirus pandemic and how the virus first crossed over to humans. Meanwhile, Beijing is pushing a narrative that the virus may have existed outside China before it was discovered in Wuhan, partly due to scientific papers that suggest it may have circulated in Europe in 2019.