More than 120 countries have co-sponsored a motion pushed by Australia for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus.
During an unprecedented virtual meeting of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision-making body on Monday, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom vowed to action the calls from most of the organisation's member states by launching the independent probe at the “earliest appropriate moment.”
The European Union’s 27 member states and the African Group’s 54 member states all backed the motion, as did Russia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The motion does not single out any particular nation, but instead calls for the initiation of a “stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation, including using existing mechanisms, as appropriate, to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.”
The motion also calls for the WHO to work alongside other organisations to “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population” in an effort to “reduce the risk of similar events.”
Exclusive: Australia has secured the support of the European Union's top foreign minister for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus, despite significant economic and diplomatic pressure from China. https://t.co/puoByYYg8d— The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh) May 15, 2020
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the encouragement from so many nations was a “win for the international community,” while Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was vital the world learnt the necessary lessons from the pandemic.
"We need to learn the lessons from this pandemic and ensure we have the strongest possible global health architecture, with an enhanced ability to prevent and respond to future outbreaks,” he said in a statement. “This could include an examination of whether the WHO’s mandate and powers, including around inspection, need to be strengthened to ensure WHO members have timely access to critical data. And we need to protect against the global health threat posed by wildlife wet markets.”
Speaking at the virtual WHO session on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would encourage a thorough evaluation based on “science and professionalism” once COVID-19 is tamed.
“China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 after it is brought under control to sum up experience and address deficiencies,” he said. “This work should be based on science and professionalism, led by WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner.”
Xi also emphasised that China has acted with “openness, transparency and responsibility” during the pandemic and vowed any vaccine developed by his country would be available globally.
China further pledged $2 billion USD over the next two years to assist the global fight against COVID-19.