China agrees to WHO sending experts to study virus

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GENEVA (Reuters) - China has agreed that the World Health Organization will send international experts there as soon as possible to increase understanding of a new coronavirus and guide the global response to the outbreak, the U.N. agency said on Tuesday.

In a statement after a two-day visit by WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as the health and foreign ministers, it said that a better understanding of the virus’ ability to spread from person to person was urgently needed to advise other countries.

“The discussions focused on continued collaboration on containment measures in Wuhan, public health measures in other cities and provinces, conducting further studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus, continuing to share data, and for China to share biological material with WHO,” the WHO said.

This would contribute to developing vaccines and treatments.

“The two sides agreed that WHO will send international experts to visit China as soon as possible to work with Chinese counterparts on increasing understanding of the outbreak to guide global response efforts,” the WHO added, without giving a time frame.

Xi said earlier on Tuesday that China was sure of defeating the “devil” coronavirus that has killed 106 people, spread across the world and rattled financial markets.

Tedros can reconvene the WHO Emergency Committee on very short notice as needed, to consider whether the outbreak constitutes an international emergency, the WHO said in the statement, which made no reference to evacuations of foreigners that both sides say were discussed in the Beijing talks.

The WHO’s independent panel met twice last week, but declined to declare a global emergency.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Emma Farge and Giles Elgood