The World Health Organisation has chosen the members of a new advisory board into the origins of pandemics.
The board will help draw up guidelines for future studies on the origins of pandemics and epidemics and oversee investigations, the WHO announced in Geneva on Wednesday.
In total, 26 experts were put forward by the WHO for its Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), including scientists from China, Russia, Australia, the United States, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Cambodia.
German virologist Christian Drosten from Berlin's Charite hospital, who has been one of the most visible experts on German media during the pandemic, is one of the names on the list.
Australian Stuart Blacksell, a professor of tropical microbiology at the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, and Chinese animal health expert Yang Yungui are also on the list of proposed members ahead of a two-week period of public consultation.
Four people on the list, including Yang, served on the WHO mission to Wuhan, China, to probe the source of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus earlier this year.
Political considerations played no role in the selection, WHO emergency relief co-ordinator Mike Ryan said on Wednesday.
Member countries have until the end of October to comment on the list.
The advisory board is a response to the long delay to an international investigation into the origin of the coronavirus.
The virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 but the foreign experts proposed by the WHO were not allowed to travel to China until more than 12 months later.
China does not want to allow further investigation on the ground.
The US government accuses China of withholding information from the experts.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that "understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential".
"We are very pleased with the calibre of experts selected for SAGO from around the world, and look forward to working with them to make the world safer," he said.
Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, voiced hope that there would be further WHO-led international missions to China which would engage the country's co-operation.
She told a news conference that "more than three dozen recommended studies" still needed to be carried out to determine how the virus crossed from the animal species to humans.
Reported Chinese tests for antibodies present in Wuhan residents in 2019 will be "absolutely critical" to understanding the virus' origins, van Kerkhove said.
Ryan said the new panel may be the last chance to establish the origin of SARS-CoV-2, "a virus that has stopped our whole world".
The WHO was seeking to "take a step back, create an environment where we can again look at the scientific issues," he said.
Chen Xu, China's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told a separate news conference the conclusions of the joint study were "quite clear," adding that as international teams had been sent to China twice already, "it is time to send teams to other places".
"I do believe that if we are going to continue with the scientific research I think it should be a joint effort based on science not by the intelligence agencies," Chen said.
"So if we are going to talk about anything, we are doing the whole business with the framework of SAGO".
The WHO launched the request for applications last August, saying it was looking for the greatest scientific minds to advise on investigations into new high-threat pathogens that jump from animals to humans and could spark the next pandemic.
Australian Associated Press