All eyes on Covid-19 suspect China as 73rd World Health Organization assembly gets underway

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers remarks during the opening ceremony of the World Health Assembly. World Health Organization. (Photo courtesy: CNN)

(, May18’20) – Envoys from 194 of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s member states are meeting virtually on May 18 and 19 for the 73rd assembly of the UN body with the main focus on the Covid-19 pandemic which has infected more than 4.7 million people and killed over 300,000 in 188 countries and regions. China is expected to have a lot of answering to do, given its widely questionable response during the initial outbreak in Wuhan city which resulted in the disease becoming a pandemic which plunged the world in the worst crisis since World war Two.

The European Union is expected to lead an international call, alongside countries including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, for an inquiry into how the global pandemic has been handled and what lessons can be learned, reported May 19.

India is among 62 countries that have moved a proposal to “identify the zoonotic source” of the coronavirus and asks for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the WHO’s response to Covid-19, reported May 18.

The proposal is part of a seven-page draft resolution moved by 35 countries and the 27-member European Union, and is likely to be taken up on May 18 at the Assembly, which is the decision-making body of the WHO, the report said.

Those backing it are stated to be three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — UK, Russia and France — along with Japan, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey, among others.

China has strenuously sought to prevent any investigation or study to determine the origin of the novel coronavirus. It requires its own scientists to seek prior permission for undertaking any such study with intent not to grant it.

It has banned beef imports from Australia for demanding an impartial international study to determine the virus’s origin.

The draft resolution was reported to ask WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to “initiate at the earliest appropriate moment…a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response, and the actions of the WHO and its “timeline” of the pandemic.

It is further said to ask the WHO chief to 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”.

China claims that the SARS-Cov-2, the virus behind the Covid-19 pandemic, was first reported in its Wuhan city but refuses to accept that it originated in China.

The resolution does not expressly mention China or the reported origin of the virus in the city of Wuhan, but Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was one of the first global leaders to accuse China of the pandemic and therefore the draft resolution’s intent is being interpreted accordingly, noted May 18. The US has been outspoken in citing China as the source of the virus.

Also on May 18, the assembly will also hold a vote to determine whether to grant observer status to Taiwan, something the de facto independent country had enjoyed before. China is opposing the move, while the US is leading a group of powerful countries in support of Taiwan’s claim. India has not made its decision public, noted the report.


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