China denied entry to two members of a World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the novel coronavirus after both tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Chinese officials blocked the duo from boarding their plane to the central Chinese city of Wuhan after they tested positive for the antibodies in blood-based serology tests during transit in Singapore, the report said, citing citing people familiar with matter.
“Relevant epidemic prevention control requirements will be strictly enforced,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing, when asked about the report.
The long-awaited probe comes after months of negotiations between the WHO and Beijing.
Covid-19 was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019.
The team’s arrival on Thursday morning coincides with a resurgence of new coronavirus cases in northern China, while life in Wuhan is relatively back to normal.
They will undergo two weeks of quarantine before beginning their research, which will rely upon samples and evidence provided by Chinese officials.
The probe, which aims to investigate the animal origin of the pandemic, looks set to begin after some initial hiccups.
Earlier this month the WHO said its investigators were denied entry into China after one member of the team was turned back and another got stuck in transit. But Beijing said it was a misunderstanding and that arrangements for the investigation were still in discussion.
China has been saying for months that the outbreak did not originate there.