An advance team of international experts led by the World Health Organisation has left for Beijing to help investigate China's coronavirus epidemic.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made a trip to Beijing for talks with President Xi Jinping and Chinese ministers in late January and returned with an agreement on sending an international mission.
But it has taken nearly two weeks to get the government's green light on its composition.
Tedros tweeted from Geneva that he'd just been at the airport seeing off members of an advance team for the WHO-led international expert mission to China.
WHO veteran Dr. Bruce Aylward, a Canadian epidemiologist and emergencies expert will lead the mission.
China raised the coronavirus death toll to 811 on Sunday, passing the number killed globally by the SARS epidemic, as authorities made plans for millions of people returning to work after an extended Lunar New Year break.
The virus, which has spread to two dozen countries, has killed some 2 per cent of more than 37,550 cases worldwide, with 99 per cent of infections in China, WHO figures show.
The WHO declared the outbreak a global emergency on January 30, days after the Chinese central government imposed a lockdown on 60 million people in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, epicentre of the virus that emerged in December in a seafood market.
Tedros said on Saturday that he hoped the team would include experts from the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC).
Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown Law, called for a "genuine partnership with transparent flows of information and accountability for the response", adding that there should be a strong CDC presence.
"CDC has got no peer in terms of its experience and technical expertise in dealing with international outbreaks," he said.
"But the other benefit is the smart diplomacy, what it could signal is that despite all of our differences in ideology, trade, politics, that when faced with a common threat to humanity, we come together as a human community to tackle it," Gostin said.
Australian Associated Press