China succumbed to mounting international pressure on Monday for a probe into Covid-19 origin and a review of the World Health Organisation’s response to the pandemic.
President Xi Jinping told the World Health Assembly that China had acted with ‘openness, transparency and responsibility’ when the pandemic first erupted.
President Xi, who had been invited to speak at the opening ceremony after the European Union-drafted resolution to push for a probe was supported by more than a 100 countries, said Beijing supported calls for a comprehensive review of the global response but felt this exercise should be carried out after the world gets a grip on the situation.⁰
“China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 after it is brought under control to sum up experience and address deficiencies,” President Xi told the assembly, the UN global health body’s policy making body.
China had previously opposed calls for such investigations from Washington and Canberra
India is among the 100 countries supporting the European Union-drafted resolution seeking a probe into the origin of the coronavirus that has killed over 300,000 people so far.
The draft also sought to steer the WHO’s response on the issue ahead of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) biggest annual event on Monday.
The World Health Assembly, the WHO’s key policy making body, is meeting Monday afternoon, for the first time via video conference.
The conference that started Monday will last two days for now and resume again once the world gets a grip on the virus that has infected millions of people.
The resolution seeks a probe into the source of the virus, now called Sars-CoV-2, and its emergence as a human contagion.
Coronavirus, the disease that the pathogen causes, was first detected in China’s Wuhan city.
But its earliest form is traceable to the US bio-warfare program (1943-69), as revealed by Easternlink last month.
Easternlink’s contention was based on leading Western bio terrorism expert Nancy Khordari who writes in her seminal work that coronavirus was one of the twenty pathogens developed by the US bio-warfare program before it was abolished by President Richard Nixon in 1969 .
That decision was influenced by worldwide protests against the US for use of ‘Agent Orange’ in Vietnam as the sequel to global campus movement that started in France in 1968.
It is not clear how this coronavirus reached China though there are now enough evidence that the US had preserved some stocks of tbe 20 pathogens for future research.
There is also evidence of US funding of $ 7.4 million for virus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology between 2011-19 though no evidence exists about transfer of coronavirus stocks to WIH from US.
But Beijing, which has been accused of trying to conceal the disease in the early days of its detection last year, occasionally insists that it could have originated elsewhere.
More than one Chinese foreign ministry official has pointed to the United States as the origin of the virus without disclosing much , because it would face expected questions why China agreed to US-funded and very risky ‘functions research’ despite knowing of enormous risks of a possible pandemic.
Those risks were highlighted bu 200 scientists whose protests for President Barack Obama to stop funding for the WIH-based project in 2015 before Dobald Trump revived it a year later.The European Union and its Member States, the African Group and its Member States, Albania, Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Australia, who had played a lead role in building support for the resolution that targets China, has welcomed the growing support for the probe, according to news agency Reuters.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the resolution is “an important part of the conversation we started”.
Australia has also borne the brunt of Beijing’s anger for this role. Chinese authorities have threatened to impose heavy duties on barley imports and already suspended beef imports from four Australian suppliers.
Chinese foreign ministry has denied that the decision was linked to Australia’s push for the Covid origin inquiry that it has described as “highly irresponsible” and could “disrupt international cooperation in fighting the pandemic”.
Australia, backed by the United States, however, stayed the course and kept up its efforts.
An updated document on the WHO’s website indicates that support for the resolution has been growing.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the 54-nation Africa Group have also signed off on the resolution – now supported by 123 members – that not only puts China’s role but also that of the WHO leadership under scrutiny. In particular, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The draft resolution asks the WHO chief to start an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response including an evaluation of the effectiveness of the mechanisms at WHO’s disposal.