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Isolated China Agrees for Enquiry

GENEVA:Amid growing calls for an independent investigation into the novel coronavirus pandemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the World Health Organization’s annual assembly that he supports an international review led by the WHO — once the health emergency ends.Xi delivered the message via video.

About 100 nations ( WHO has 194 countries ) including India have joined President Trump’s calls for an investigation, which China had previously rejected on grounds it was an attempt to blame Beijing. In a virtual address Monday, Xi also pledged $2 billion to the fight against the virus that has killed at least 300,000 people and infected more than 4.7 million worldwide.

Xi told the World Health Assembly in Geneva that China had been open and transparent about the coronavirus outbreak which started in Hubei province in late 2019, and said his country would support an investigation “conducted in an objective and impartial way”.

China will also provide $US2 billion ($3.09b) over two years towards helping with the COVID-19 response and Mr Xi promised any vaccine developed by his country would be made a global public good.

Mr Xi did not indicate whether China would vote for a joint resolution by Australia and other countries calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to happen later on Monday.

He described the pandemic as the “most serious global public health emergency” since World War II and defended his country’s handling of the crisis, which has come under fierce criticism from the United States and President Donald Trump.  

India has backed calls to identify how the Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 was transmitted from animals to humans and conduct an ‘impartial’ evaluation of the World Health Organisation’s response to the pandemic, according to a draft resolution proposed for the WHO’s annual meet.

New Delhi’s decision to sign off on the push for an inquiry led by the European Union and Australia is the first time that India has formally articulated its stand on the Covid-19 outbreak that was detected in central China’s Wuhan city late last year.   

But Prime Minister Modi did indicate New Delhi’s stand at the G20 summit in March where he backed WHO reform and referred to the need for transparency and accountability. 

 China, which has been accused of concealing information about the virus in the early days of the outbreak, had later contested that the deadly Sars-CoV-2 pathogen detected in its territory could have originated just about anywhere. Chinese foreign ministry officials even shared conspiracy theories that accused the US military of starting the coronavirus outbreak.

World Health Organisation and its director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on the other hand, have been blamed for playing along with China till the virus reached enough countries and spread rapidly. Ghebreyesus, a former Ethopian minister, was elected with support from China in 2017. The accusations – he has denied them – also led United States President Donald Trump to suspend funding to the UN global health body.  

In the United States, where nearly 1.5 million cases have been confirmed and the death toll is approaching 90,000, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said it’s safe to reopen because half of the counties across America “haven’t had a single death.”

The draft resolution – supported by 62 countries including Bangladesh, Canada, Russia, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Japan – was an effort to bring about transparency and accountability for the spread of the disease that has been widely-acknowledged to be the worst crisis since the second world war.

To be sure, the draft resolution does not mention China or its Wuhan city.

It asks the WHO director general 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”. 

The seven-page draft resolution also proposes to ask the WHO chief to start, “at the earliest appropriate moment”, a stepwise “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to Covid-19.

The draft also asks countries to provide WHO “timely, accurate and sufficiently detailed public health information related to the COVID-19 pandemic as required by the international health regulations.

Here are some other significant developments:

  • The biotech company Moderna said its coronavirus vaccine showed encouraging early results in a human safety trial.
  • Tensions between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spilled into public view as a top Trump adviser said the agency “let the country down” with its initial approach to testing.
  • New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D) was tested for the coronavirus during his Sunday media briefing. “There is no reason you should not get the test,” he said, amid a national shortage of patients seeking tests.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell told “60 Minutes” that the current economic slump “could stretch through the end of next year.”
  • Eric Trump claimed on Fox News that the virus will “magically” vanish after the presidential election in November — an assertion that has no basis in science and is contradicted by health experts worldwide.
  • Before empty grandstands at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, NASCAR took the country’s first step toward demonstrating that some big-time sports can resume.

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