WHO kicks off investigation into COVID-19 origins

A World Health Organization-led team of experts finally began its fact-finding mission in Wuhan, China on Friday as they investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They kicked off meetings with Chinese leaders now that the mission's members are out of quarantine, and over the next two weeks, the WHO said the group plans to visit labs, markets and hospitals in the city where the deadly virus first emerged in late 2019.

The team will visit the seafood market at the center of the initial outbreak, as well as the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The origins of the COVID-19 pandemic have been highly politicized.

A member of the WHO team told Reuters on Thursday that the mission's success depends on "access to the relevant sources," and that "this can only be possible with the support from China."

China's initial delay of the mission drew rare public criticism from the WHO chief.

It's also been plagued by lingering concerns over access and bickering between China and the United States.

The U.S. has accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticized the terms of the WHO visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

Meanwhile, China has pushed the idea that the virus existed abroad before it was discovered in Wuhan.

State media have cited the virus' presence on imported frozen food packaging, and scientific papers there say it had been circulating in Europe in 2019.

The WHO has sought to manage expectations for its investigation, with emergency chief Mike Ryan saying earlier this month that "There are no guarantees of answers."