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WHO to Release Mid-March Report on China COVID-19 Inspection


Commuters wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk through a subway station in Beijing, March 3, 2021.

Investigators who conducted an inspection in China to determine origins of the COVID-19 virus will release a report on their findings in mid-March, a World Health Organization official said Friday.

Peter Ben Embarek, who led the mission, clarified at a regular coronavirus news briefing in Geneva that an interim report would not be released as previously reported.

"To clarify, there was never a plan for an interim report, first of all,” Embarek said. “It was hoped we would get a summary report out,” but “the director-general [Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus] will receive that report from the team in the near future and we will discuss the recommendations.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the WHO team decided not to release its interim account “amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington.” Another international group of scientists has called for the WHO to conduct a new inquiry into COVID-19’s origins.

The scientists calling for a new probe said in an open letter Thursday that the WHO team “did not have the mandate, the independence, or the necessary accesses to carry out a full and unrestricted investigation.”

The scientists also noted in their letter that the WHO investigators in China were joined by their Chinese counterparts.

The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

Throughout his term, former U.S. President Donald Trump strongly suggested, without evidence, the coronavirus had leaked from a Wuhan laboratory.

A global team of inspectors began its four-week investigation in Wuhan in January and finished it last month.

Meanwhile, a report in The Guardian said hospitals in Papua New Guinea have run out of money and are “shutting their doors” because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases. The country had registered 124 new coronavirus cases in all of February but had 108 new infections by March 4.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public warning Thursday about thermal imaging devices or scanners used by many businesses to measure elevated temperature, a COVID symptom.

The FDA alert said, “Improper use of the systems may provide inaccurate temperature readings due to a variety of factors.” The agency also said it had sent “several Warning Letters” to companies that are “offering unapproved, uncleared and unauthorized thermal imaging systems for sale."

Auckland, New Zealand, is set to ease its seven-day lockdown on Sunday, moving from alert level three to alert level two because no new community coronavirus cases were recorded Friday. The rest of the country is scheduled to move to alert level one Sunday.

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported Friday that there were nearly 115.8 million global COVID-19 cases. The U.S. remained at the top of the list with almost 29 million infections, followed by India with nearly 11.2 million and Brazil with nearly 10.8 million.