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International News

One-Hundred Countries Want to See Investigation of Pandemic's Origin

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One-Hundred Countries Want to See Investigation of Pandemic's Origin

2020-05-20 10:53:23

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Xi Jinping (Image source: Palácio do Planalto)

One question demanding answers is how the world will get out of the coronavirus pandemic, with the virus hitting so many countries and none being hit worse than the United States. But the other question demanding answers is how it started. 

Donald Trump is fond of blaming China and referring to coronavirus COVID-19 as "the China virus." Some have speculated that it was originated in a Chinese lab in Wuhan. One hundred countries would like to see an investigation to learn the origin of the virus.

The 100 countries are backing a resolution at the World Health Assembly that will demand an independent inquiry into the pandemic's origins. The European Union drafted the resolution, while Australia is pushing a probe into China's handling of the pandemic initially. 

Beijing is not happy with Australia's government for pushing this, accusing Canberra of a "highly irresponsible" move that could "disrupt international cooperation in fighting the pandemic and goes against people's shared aspiration."

The resolution was scheduled to be presented at the World Health Organization's annual meeting, which began on Monday in Grevena. China is not blamed, and neither is any other country. The resolution simply asks for an "impartial, independent, and comprehensive evaluation" of "the (WHO)-coordinated international health response to COVID-19." 

Still, the resolution isn't as strongly worded as Australia's previous requests for investigating China and the pandemic's origin. But Australia's forcefulness prodded other WHO members with strong ties to China to join in the resolution.

There is a great chance an independent investigation will find damaging information. Australian government sources said the resolution was strong enough to "ensure that a proper and thorough investigation took place." 

Previously, Beijing had said it would only get behind a WHO-conducted investigation, but the organization has been accused of being influenced by China.

Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to the UK, said last week, "We're open, we are transparent, we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. We welcome an international, independent review, but it has to be organized by the WHO." 

Depending on what turns up in any investigation, it could have a large effect on China's standing with the rest of the world, more so than the knock it has already taken, being largely blamed for the global health crisis.

China has defended itself against criticism, noting it had warned the WHO late last year about a potential new strain of pneumonia that had been spreading through Wuhan. China's response has been praised by the WHO, but the investigation will show what they knew and at what point, in comparison to what WHO was told and when. 

Xi and other Chinese officials have admitted they were aware that COVID-19 was spreading even while Wuhan was downplaying the impact.

Dr. Zhon Nanshan, the Chinese government's senior medical adviser, said on CNN on Saturday that local authorities "didn't like to tell the truth at the time," adding, "At the very beginning, they kept silent, and then I said probably we have (a larger) number of people being infected." He noted his suspicions were aroused when the number of reported cases in Wuhan remained at 41 for more than 10 days. 

The suggestion that holding back that information enabled COVID-19 to spread globally has been angrily denied by Beijing. The investigation will still hurt the country's standing, especially with the U.S., but also with Europe and other countries.

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