The World Health Organization (WHO) team came out of their mandatory quarantine to start an on ground investigation into the origins of coronavirus in the city of Wuhan.
The scientists will investigate people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market linked to the initial outbreak.
The group of 13 experts arrived in Wuhan on 14 January, and spent two weeks in quarantine that ended on Thursday. While in isolation, the team had been in video calls with each other and Chinese scientists.
On Thursday afternoon they exited their hotel and boarded a bus without speaking to journalists. Earlier in the day members of the team tweeted about the end of their quarantine, including pictures of themselves receiving letters certifying they had completed medical isolation.
“New phase, new priorities,” tweeted Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans.
So proud to graduate from our 14 days “isolation quarantine” – no one went stir crazy & we’ve been v productive! https://t.co/XskDHZRKCq
— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) January 28, 2021
Local government officials in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province have been accused of downplaying the virus in the early days of the pandemic, and several were fired last year.
China has dismissed criticism of its early handling of the virus, and officials now point to overseas studies suggesting it was circulating in Europe several months before the Wuhan outbreak.