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As I write, after returning from Wuhan, China, I am in a hotel quarantine in Sydney. There, I was the Australian representative for a World Health Organization (WHO) international inquiry into the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Much has been said about the politics surrounding the mission to investigate COVID-19’s viral roots. So, it is easy to forget that there are real people behind these investigations.

As part of the mission, we met the man who was the first confirmed COVID-19 case on December 8, 2019; he has recovered since then.

We met the doctor’s husband, who died of COVID-19 and left a young child behind. We met the doctors who were treating those early COVID-19 cases in the Wuhan hospitals and heard what happened to them and their colleagues.

We witnessed the effect of COVID-19 on many people and populations affected so early in the pandemic that we didn’t know anything about the virus, how it spreads, how COVID-19 is handled, or its consequences.

Over the four weeks that the WHO mission was in China, we spoke to our Chinese counterparts-scientists, epidemiologists, physicians.

We spent up to 15 hours a day having meetings with them, so we became colleagues, even friends.

This enabled us to create respect and confidence through Zoom or email in a way you couldn’t necessarily do.

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