Coronavirus | India to participate in WHO meet to seek origin of virus

India is expected to join over 60 countries at a two-day crucial conference of the World Health Organisation in Geneva in pushing for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive” evaluation of the global response mechanism to the COVID-19 crisis as well as to find out the “zoonotic source” of the deadly infection.

The two-day 73rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the WHO beginning on Monday is taking place in the backdrop of growing calls including by U.S. President Donald Trump to investigate how the virus originated in China’s Wuhan city. China and the U.S. were locked in a spat over the issue.

The WHA is also expected to delve into pooling in additional resources to deal with the pandemic that has killed over 3,10,000 people and infected nearly 4.7 million besides wrecking the global economy.

A draft resolution pushed by the European Union and supported by a large number of countries for deliberations at the WHA called for a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the WHO-coordinated international response to COVID-19.

Besides India, the countries which supported the draft resolution included Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Maldives and Mexico.

 

Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Moldova, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and the U.K. and Northern Ireland are also backing the resolution, according to the WHO.

The U.S. does not figure in the list of countries backing the move.

The draft resolution also pitched for making recommendations to improve global pandemic prevention mechanisms including through strengthening the WHO’s health emergencies programme.

It also called for continuing to work closely with the World Organisation for Animal Health, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and other countries as part of the “one-health approach to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population.”

The resolution says the possible role of intermediate hosts, including through efforts such as scientific and collaborative field missions, will enable targeted interventions and a research agenda to reduce the risk of similar events in future.

 

Such an approach, the draft resolution mentioned, would provide guidance on how to prevent COVID-19 infection in animals and humans and prevent the establishment of new “zoonotic reservoirs“.

Another flash point between China and the U.S. has been over the Trump administration’s push for inclusion of Taiwan in the WHO. China has been strongly opposed to the move as it considers Taiwan to be part of its territory.

Indian officials said Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will represent India at the WHA video-conference.

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