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Reuters – After confirming that researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) will visit China next year, Wuhan residents say they want the team to go to their city, hoping to prove that the virus did not originate there. 

The WHO said Thursday that it expects to send an international team of researchers to China in January, more than a year after the first identified concentration of COVID-19 infections was linked to the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan.

“I welcome you to come. We also want to know how it developed, specifically where it came from, if the source of the virus is here, ”said a Wuhan resident surnamed Wan, as he walked to work on Thursday morning.

“My feeling is that it’s not from there,” he added, referring to the seafood market.

The WHO did not confirm whether its team will go to Wuhan and said discussions on the itinerary are in progress. A two-member WHO team visited China in July, but did not visit Wuhan.

Reuters previously reported, citing a member and diplomats, that a team of 12 to 15 international experts will visit Wuhan to examine evidence such as human and animal samples collected by Chinese researchers, and to build on their initial studies.

Beijing has strongly opposed calls for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, but said it is open to a WHO-led investigation. Many questions remain about the origins of COVID-19 and the role that Wuhan’s exotic wildlife trade may have played in it.

Although authorities closed the Huanan market in January, there is a growing scientific consensus that the virus did not originate there. Some studies suggest that it was already in circulation when it hit the market, with more than one transmission route.

“There is a strong possibility that wholesale seafood was brought in from elsewhere. Wuhan has no shellfish, ”said 20-year-old student Jiang Yongcheng .

Others said that a WHO visit is an opportunity to show how well the city has done in fighting the virus. Wuhan has not reported a locally transmitted case since May 10, after a 76-day lockdown that was one of the strictest in the world.

“We are not afraid of their investigation,” said Liu Qin , who works in real estate. “As you can see from the epidemic this year, things were done well in Wuhan , otherwise the epidemic would not have been controlled quickly.”

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