Jan 14, 2021 13:58 UTC
  • China logs first virus death in 8 months as WHO huddles on new strains

China recorded its first COVID-19 death in eight months on Thursday, as experts huddled to discuss worrying new strains of the coronavirus that are spreading rapidly around the globe.

The gathering in Geneva of the World Health Organization's emergency committee comes as their colleagues landed in Wuhan for a long-delayed mission to find the origins of the virus.

More than 91 million people have been infected, with almost two million of them dying, according to figures widely thought to be an underestimate.

Much of the planet is enveloped in a second or third wave of the disease, with populations chafing under painful and economically damaging restrictions.

China — where the virus first emerged — has again locked down millions of people as it fights to control a fresh outbreak that has now claimed its first victim, sparking anguish on social media.

The hashtag "New virus death in Hebei" quickly ratcheted up 100 million views on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

The death comes as a politically sensitive investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic finally got underway with the arrival of a 10-strong team in Wuhan, where the virus emerged in late 2019.

Mission leader Peter Ben Embarek said the group would start with a two-week quarantine at a hotel before the probe begins in earnest.

Regardless of the virus' origins, scientists say large-scale vaccination is the only way to escape its ravages.

Programs have spluttered into life in a number of countries, although progress is slower than many are hoping.

In the United States, where more than 4,000 people are dying every day from the disease, around 10 million have received a first shot.

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