Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A World Health Organization team probing the origins of the coronavirus pandemic will arrive in China this week to officially begin their work, Chinese officials said Monday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed a brief earlier announcement by the National Health Commission of China that a team of WHO experts will arrive in the country Thursday -- a week after the WHO publicly expressed frustration that they were being blocked.
"Upon consultation between the two sides, the Chinese government has agreed to the visit by WHO experts on January 14," Zhao told reporters in Beijing. "During the visit, the international experts will hold exchanges with Chinese scientists and medical experts over scientific cooperation in origin-tracing."
A breakthrough in the apparent standoff was first announced Saturday when National Health Commission Deputy Director Zeng Yixin said the terms of the visit had been agreed to but the time of arrival was still being determined.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week the health agency had learned that Chinese officials had not granted its investigation team permission to enter the country.
Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said the issues had to do with visa clearances.
In May, the WHO approved a resolution led by the European Union and Australia to establish an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, despite China's pushback.
The first cases emerged in late December 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
"The two sides have reached a basic consensus on origin-tracing, which is a scientific issue that should be jointly studied by scientists all over the world," Zhao said Monday.
The WHO's origin-tracing efforts, he added, will eventually likely "involve many countries and localities" as new developments emerge, and that the agency "will need to pay similar visits to other countries and regions as the need arises.
"China will continue close cooperation with WHO and international experts and contribute our share to the global origin-tracing work," he said.