Oceania | Diplomacy

Australian World Health Assembly Effort to Promote Inquiry on COVID-19 Origins Wins Wide Support

More than 100 countries have supported the Australian draft resolution calling for an impartial, international inquiry.

Ankit Panda
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Australian World Health Assembly Effort to Promote Inquiry on COVID-19 Origins Wins Wide Support
Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

A group of more than 110 countries have come together to back an effort by the Australian government to establish an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The Australian government has won wide support for a draft resolution at the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly calling for WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to embark on an impartial and comprehensive examination of the origins of the pandemic and the international response.

The Australian resolution updates language originally proposed by the European Union and was initially backed by a range of countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, India, Japan, Indonesia, and the entirety of the European Union’s membership. By Monday, 54 states that are part of the African Group joined as co-sponsors.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne cited the support for the push by Canberra as a positive sign that international interest was coalescing around the notion of a independent inquiry.

“I think 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, the impact on economies from one corner of the globe to the other — that there is a strong view that it is appropriate to engage in a review of what has happened,” Payne said on Monday.

“I don’t want to pre-empt, I don’t want to speculate about the outcome. Those discussions will be under way later this evening, Australian time… I think it’s a win for the international community,” she added. The draft resolution will undergo a vote on Tuesday.

The text of the resolution calls for an international effort to “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts, including through efforts such as scientific and collaborative field missions.” The text of the resolution does not directly cite China — or even the city of Wuhan — as the source of the virus.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have heated up in recent weeks over a sustained effort by the Australian government to press into the origins of the pandemic. Chinese officials have criticized Australia and threatened punitive economic measures against the country.

The United States, which has been openly critical of China’s handling of COVID-19 earlier this year, has not yet cosponsored the resolution. Washington has halted its funding to the World Health Organization, but has promoted the Australian effort to seek answers on the pandemic’s origin.