Hong Kong (CNN)The World Health Organization said that China has blocked the arrival of a team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, in a rare rebuke from the UN agency.
WHO team blocked from entering China to study origins of coronavirus
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said two scientists on the United Nations team had already left their home countries for Wuhan when they were told that Chinese officials had not approved the necessary permissions to enter the country.
The arrangements had been jointly agreed with China in advance.
"I am very disappointed with this news," Tedros told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday. "I have been in contact with senior Chinese officials and I have once again made clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team."
Tedros said WHO was "eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible" and that he had been given assurances that Beijing was speeding up the internal procedure for "the earliest possible deployment."
Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program said there was an issue with visas and one team member had already returned home. The other was waiting in transit in a third country.
WHO officials have long been negotiating with Beijing to allow a team of global scientists access to key sites to investigate the origin of the virus -- first detected in Wuhan in December 2019 -- and its likely jump from an unidentified host species to humans.
In May, WHO agreed to hold an inquiry into the global response to the pandemic after more than 100 countries signed a resolution calling for an independent probe.