A coalition of 62 countries has backed Australia’s push for an independent inquiry into the CCP virus outbreak which will be put forward at the World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, The Australian reports.
The publication said it had obtained an “updated version of the motion,”which includes “toughened language from an earlier European version,” and has support from nations including India, Japan, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico and Brazil, and all 27 EU member states (pdf).
The motion reportedly calls on World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus to “initiate at the earliest appropriate moment a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic, as well as the WHO’s actions along with a timeline.
While the motion does not specifically mention China or the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started last year, it does say the WHO should work with the World Organisation for Animal Health to conduct “scientific and collaborative field missions” and “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts,” ABC reported.
The international support garnered by the motion will no doubt infuriate Beijing, which last month called the independent inquiry “politically motivated,” and an attempt to “blame China for their own (the various countries calling for the enquiry) problems and deflect the attention.”
In a press conference with Australian Financial Review political correspondent Andrew Tillet, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye said China is opposed to the idea of any such inquiry, stating, “The proposition is obviously teaming up with those forces in Washington to launch a political campaign against China,” before referencing “inflammatory comments in the media,” and from some politicians.
“The fact that the epidemic first broke out in China, and the first cases were reported, this does not mean the source of the virus is in China,” Jingye continued, adding that, “resorting to suspicion, recrimination or division at such a critical time could only undermine the global efforts to fight against this pandemic,” which he said China thinks is “irresponsible.”
While the United States has not yet officially backed the motion, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged all countries to join Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s push for the inquiry into the origins of the virus.
In a press conference on May 8, Morrison also pushed back at previous comments from China, stating that the investigation was “not directed at anyone,” and that Australia “just wants to know what happened so it doesn’t happen again.”
“It’s a pretty honest question with an honest intent and an honest motive and I’m seeing more and more support for that position,” he said. “And we’re supporting a European motion that’s going to the World Health Assembly and there’s an independent oversight committee of the Health Emergencies Program within the World Health Organisation. And on top of that, there’s a health regulations review process that’s going on that I think can accommodate the recommendations made by the Europeans as a good first step to getting down this path. But you can’t let the trail go cold and I think Australia and the United States and the United Kingdom and countries all around the world would like to know what happened because we don’t want to see it happen again.”
Despite the prime minister’s assertions that the investigation is simply a matter of finding the origins of the virus, China this week suspended beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors and threatened to impose tariffs of 80 per cent on domestic barley producers, but claimed it was unrelated to the current dispute over COVID-19.