The World Health Organization will send a team of experts to China next week to investigate the original source of the coronavirus.
“We can fight the virus better when we know everything about the virus, including how it started,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the organization, said on Monday.
While the coronavirus likely originated in bats, how it was transmitted to humans remains unknown. The outbreak was first identified late last year at a market in Wuhan, China, and one hypothesis is that other poached wildlife sold there might have spread the virus to people.
Dr. Tedros said it is very important to know the exact zoonotic origin of the virus and understand the science behind it in order to deal with the current pandemic and outbreaks that might occur in the future.
In February, a W.H.O. delegation led by Dr. Bruce Aylward, a specialist with experience fighting polio, Ebola and other health emergencies, spent two weeks in China and said health officials there were seeing success in suppressing the outbreak.
The United States and other countries have criticized China over its initial handling of the outbreak, including delays in reporting the first cases to the W.H.O., and for looking to deflect blame for the epidemic on outsiders. The W.H.O. has been reluctant to publicly criticize China, and at times it has praised health officials for providing genetic information about the virus and taking strong action around Wuhan to contain it. Member countries of the organization agreed to investigate the W.H.O.’s initial response to the virus during a meeting in May, but the Trump administration nonetheless said it would cut off support for the organization.
Tuesday will mark six months since China reported the first cases of the virus to the W.H.O. Dr. Tedros said that “the worst is yet to come.” “I am sorry to say that,” he said, “but with this kind of environment and condition, we fear the worst.”