WHO nod for coronavirus probe, China backs down

Written by Shubhajit Roy
| New Delhi |

Updated: May 19, 2020 1:06:26 am


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Amid calls by a majority of the member countries, including India, to probe its Covid-19 response, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday said he will “initiate an independent evaluation” at “the earliest appropriate moment”. Beijing, which has been under mounting global pressure, also seemed to have relented on its opposition for an inquiry into the origin of the virus, believed to be a wet market in Wuhan.

Sixty-one countries had moved a resolution at the World Health Assembly (WHA) — the WHO’s decision-making body — asking for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the WHO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as identification of “the zoonotic source” of the coronavirus.

Names on a draft resolution seen by Reuters showed support from 116 of the 194 countries in the WHO.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “On the issue of the origin of the virus, all parties have agreed to International Health Regulation emergency committee suggested wording and (asked) the WHO chief to work in close collaboration with World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, and all countries to find out the animal source and the transmission routes of the virus… The purpose is to reduce the risk of similar incidents in the future.”

To questions on whether China had agreed to a probe, Zhao said, “China participated in the consultation on the draft resolution… The content is in line with China’s consistent position… China hopes all parties will in science-based and cooperative spirit focus on enhancing cooperation and engage in constructive dialogue in improving the global public health system.”

Speaking at the WHA session, Ghebreyesus said, “The WHO is committed to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement… In that spirit, we welcome the proposed resolution before this Assembly.”

The WHO chief added, “I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned…”

The US said the pandemic had “spun out of control” in great part due to a costly “failure” by the WHO. US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, without naming China said: “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world.”

China said the world should support the WHO. President Xi Jinping announced $2 billion donation to the United Nations and offered to set up hospitals and health infrastructure in Africa.

Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan represented India at the virtual session.

With inputs from PTI, Reuters.

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