Wuhan residents on Saturday welcomed an upcoming visit from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, more than a year after the first identified cluster of the infection was linked to a seafood market in the Chinese city.

An international team of investigators is expected to travel to China in January to examine evidence collected by Chinese researchers and to build on their initial studies.

Beijing has strongly opposed calls for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, but said it has been open to a WHO-led investigation.

Locals welcomed the visit, saying that they hoped it would help clarify the origins of the disease, which has infected more than 84 million people around the world.

“I think generally it is a good thing. After all, we are not afraid of the investigation. If they find out that the virus originated from Wuhan, we won’t cover it up. Or, if they find out it does not originate from here, we are vindicated.”

China still tightly restricts access to locations like the Huanan seafood market, which stands empty and locked despite normal life having largely resumed in Wuhan. Beijing has also been pushing a narrative that the virus existed abroad before it was found in Wuhan, and unlike other countries cites frozen food packaging as a risk of spreading COVID-19.

A year on since the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan: