An advance team from the World Health Organisation has left for China to organise an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus which sparked the global pandemic, a spokeswoman says.
The virus is believed to have emerged in a wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, since then closed, after jumping the species barrier from the animal kingdom to infect humans.
The two WHO experts, specialists in animal health and epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to determine the scope and itinerary of the investigation, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said, declining to name them.
"They have gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party that is to work out the scope," she told a briefing.
This would involve negotiations on issues including the composition of the full team, she added.
"One of the big issues that everybody is interested in, and of course that's why we're sending an animal health expert, is to look at whether or not it jumped from species to a human and what species it jumped from," Harris said.
"We know it's very, very similar to the virus in the bat, but did it go through an intermediate species? This is a question we all need answered," she said.