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Aus hails global support for COVID-19 probe, expresses confidence of positive outcome at WHO meet

Press Trust of India  |  Melbourne 

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday hailed the global support for a comprehensive investigation into the handling of the COVID-19 outbreak and expressed confidence of a positive outcome for the motion for an independent probe at the WHO virtual meeting.

China has come under increasing global pressure over lack of transparency in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Ever since the virus came to light in Wuhan in December last year, speculation has been rife on whether the viral strain originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or from its nearby Huanan Seafood Market.

Beijing has been vehemently opposing the allegations, claiming it to be "politically motivated" in an election year in the US.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is all set to conduct its first ever virtual assembly in Geneva on Monday. The meeting is expected to focus entirely on the coronavirus, which has claimed over 315,280 lives globally and infected more than 4,716,960 people.

The European Union has drafted a resolution -- co-sponsored by several countries, including Australia, the UK, Russia and Canada -- calling on the WHO to initiate an "impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation" of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and global responses to it.

The motion is expected to be approved in a vote at the WHO Assembly in Geneva.

"We're very encouraged by the growing levels of support for the comprehensive World Health Assembly motion. We look forward to seeing hopefully a positive outcome later this week," foreign minister Payne told a press conference.

"What it illustrates is a broad view that given the experience of COVID-19 -- over 300,000 deaths, millions of people around the world losing their jobs, including in Australia...the impact on economies from one corner of the globe to the other...There is a strong view that it is appropriate to engage in a review of what has happened in the pandemic, the impact it has had to ensure...that it does not happen again," she said.

Payne said Australia has specifically sought for an impartial, comprehensive and independent review on the COVID-19.

The deadly virus has claimed 99 lives and infected 7,060 people in Australia.

"The draft of the resolution has almost 50 clauses and it is a very comprehensive piece of work...it sets out a whole range of steps that needs to be taken in relation to COVID-19," Payne said.

Beijing has accused Canberra of parroting the US in its call for an inquiry to determine the origins of COVID-19 and warned that pursuing the investigation could spark a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting Australia as well as of sales of major exports, including beef and wine.

Downplaying the growing trade tensions between Australia and China, Payne said the government will deal with issues on merits.

The trade tensions between the two countries escalated further after China banned beef from four Australian abattoirs last week and threatened to impose 80 per cent import tariff on Australian barley.

According to media reports, the efforts of Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham to discuss the issue of increasing the tariff on barley with his Chinese counterpart has been ignored.

"We've made a request for me to be able to have discussions with my Chinese counterpart. That request has not been met with a call being accommodated at this stage," the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted the trade minister as saying on Sunday.

Birmingham on Monday said the global inquiry was in favour of China as well the rest of the world.

"See the extent of global support for an independent inquiry into COVID-19...Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives and died, millions of people have lost their jobs, billions of lives have been disrupted. The least we can do as a globe is work together to make sure we learn the lessons from it, and try to avoid a repeat of it again in the future," he told a TV channel.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 18 2020. 14:35 IST
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