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China says WHO expert panel on COVID will arrive on Jan 14 | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Team will investigate the origins of the coronavirus, which first emerged in Wuhan late in 2019.

A World Health Organization (WHO) team of international experts which is investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic will arrive in China on January 14, the country’s national health authority said on Monday.

The team initially planned to travel to China in early January but WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that their arrival was delayed because Beijing had not authorised their entry.

The National Health Commission, which announced the date in an official statement, did not elaborate on the team’s itinerary.

The pandemic first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 with initial cases linked to the now-closed Huanan seafood market. The city recorded its first official death from the then-unnamed disease a year ago – a 61-year-old man who had links with the market.

Building on research conducted over the past year, the 10 international experts are expected to make in-depth “epidemiologic, virologic, serologic assessments” of people and animals in a trip that is under the joint jurisdiction of the WHO and the government of China.

The team is expected to travel to central China to study how and where COVID-19 might have appeared.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic shows the devastating impact emerging zoonotic diseases can have on societies,” the study’s terms of reference read. “As the pandemic continues to unfold, understanding how the epidemic began is essential to prevent further SARS-CoV-2 virus introductions and help prevent introductions of new viruses in the future.”

More than 90 million people have been diagnosed with the virus over the past year and many countries are now in the grip of escalating outbreaks. Nearly two million people have died.



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Biden nominates Iran nuclear deal negotiator to State Department | Politics News

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Wendy Sherman, Joe Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, was key US negotiator of 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

United States President-elect Joe Biden has nominated a key negotiator of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement to be the US’s next deputy secretary of state, the second-highest position at the State Department.

In a statement on Saturday, Biden unveiled a string of State Department nominees, including longstanding diplomat Wendy Sherman to be deputy secretary of state.

Sherman, a professor and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, served as under secretary of state for political affairs for four years during Barack Obama’s administration, when Biden was vice president.

“She has successfully rallied the world to strengthen democracy and confront some of the biggest national security challenges of our time, including leading the U.S. negotiating team for the Iran Deal,” the statement said.

Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, has promised to return to the accord under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 as he pursued a “maximum pressure” strategy against the Iranian government.

The Trump administration has hit Tehran with a wide array of sanctions and tensions between the two countries have increased amid a torrent of hostile rhetoric and actions in the final weeks of the Republican president’s time in office.

In mid-December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran was not necessarily “excited” for Biden to take office, but that it was “very happy” to see Trump’s presidency end. “We are not very excited with Biden coming, but we are very happy with Trump going,” Rouhani said.

Meanwhile, Biden on Saturday also nominated Victoria Nuland, a retired career foreign service officer who was the top US diplomat for Europe, NATO ambassador and State Department spokeswoman, to be under secretary for political affairs.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be secretary of state.



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