WHO agrees to probe global coronavirus response

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the call of several member states to hold an enquiry into the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A coalition of European, African and other countries sought a comprehensive evaluation of the “lessons learned” from the United Nations agency’s coordination of the global response. It will not, however, touch on issues deemed contentions, such as the origin of the coronavirus. 

Australia and the European Union led the call for an investigation, the proposal of which was approved unanimously with no objections by all member states.

WHO’s approval of the resolution also comes as United States President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut US funding for the agency unless WHO commits to “substantive improvements over the next 30 days.” Trump tweeted a copy of the letter he sent WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in which Trump said the WHO has to “actually demonstrate independence from China.” 

Trump has also threatened to pull out of the WHO, a move that Russia denounced. “We are against breaking everything that is there for the sake of one state’s political or geopolitical preferences,” said Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov. 

While the resolution does not single out any country, the United States and many other nations have previously accused China of withholding vital information about the virus first detected in Wuhan, China late last year. Some health experts have also raised questions over the accuracy of China’s official caseload and death toll.

Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed support for an investigation, although he insisted that containing the virus must come first before any enquiry should be done. Xi came to the defence of his country’s actions as well. 

“All along we have acted with openness, transparency and responsibility, we have provided information to the WHO and relevant countries in the most timely fashion, we have released the genome sequence at the earliest possible time, we have shared control and treatment experiences with the world without reservation. We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need,” he said.

China had earlier reacted angrily to Australia’s initial calls for an investigation. Beijing accused Canberra that the move is “highly irresponsible” and that it could “disrupt international cooperation in fighting the pandemic and goes against people’s shared aspiration.”

COVID-19 has infected at least 4.8 million people around the world, including over 322,000 deaths.

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