Premature, says China on chorus for probe ahead of WHO meet into Covid-19 origin

China on Monday it was premature to launch an investigation into the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, hours after more than 100 countries including India and ally Russia backed an international probe into the outbreak which emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at the regular ministry briefing on Monday that the vast majority of countries in the world believe the pandemic is not yet over.

China has been pushing back international demand for a probe, saying that the US and Australia, which has been in the forefront in demanding a probe, were politicising the issue and could hamper the fight against the pandemic.

The resolution, drafted by the European Union, has been put up to the World Health Assembly (WHA), the annual meeting of the WHO. The foreign ministry statement came hours before the UN’s global health agency’s two-day virtual meet begins on Monday.

The resolution does not single out China or any other country but calls for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of “the (WHO)-coordinated international health response to Covid-19.”

“Initiate, at the earliest appropriate moment, and in consultation with Member States, 1 a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation, including using existing mechanisms, 2 as appropriate, to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19,” the draft resolution said.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday Australia wants the resolution to stipulate that the inquiry be “impartial, independent and comprehensive.”

In a separate statement, the Chinese foreign ministry announced that President Xi Jinping will address the World Health Assembly’s opening ceremony via videolink later on Monday. President Xi had not been listed as a speaker in the schedule circulated by the WHO earlier. The foreign ministry said President Xi had been invited to speak by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

After emerging in China, the virus had rapidly spread around world, killing more than 315,000 people and infecting at least 4.7 million.



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