More than 110 countries are backing a motion for WHO to investigate the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, despite China’s objections

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organisation, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting in Beijing on January 28. Naohiko Hatta – Pool/Getty
  • More than 110 nations have signalled support for launching an inquiry into the global response to the coronavirus crisis.
  • A draft resolution set to be voted on at this week’s World Health Assembly was first proposed by Australia and aimed at investigating China, where the pandemic began.
  • A new version drafted by the EU does not mention China by name. However, Australian officials have said they think the general wording would allow for scrutiny of China.
  • China has said it’s too early for such an investigation.
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More than 110 nations have expressed support for an independent investigation into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic that is likely to shine an unflattering light on China.

A draft resolution calling for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the “international health response to COVID-19” is being circulated among diplomats and prepared for this week’s World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organisation, which is part of the United Nations.

The resolution was drafted by member states of the European Union following Australia’s initial proposal for an investigation aimed at China, where COVID-19 began spreading.

The draft resolution listed more than 110 nations that had signalled their support. It would require the vote of two-thirds of the 194-member assembly to pass.

China said on Monday that it was too early to begin such an investigation.

China wasn’t mentioned by name in the draft resolution, but Australian officials have said they think its scope still allows for sufficient scrutiny of China.

Australia’s health minister, Greg Hunt, was quoted by Australia’s ABC News as saying over the weekend that he expected it to be endorsed at the conference, which is largely being held remotely on Monday and Tuesday.

Passengers are given temperature checks before boarding a train in Wuhan, China, on May 12, 2020.
Passengers’ temperatures are checked before they board a train in Wuhan, China, on May 12. Hector Retemal/AFP via Getty Images

While the draft resolution has been watered down from Australia’s original proposal, Australian government sources think the wording is “strong enough to ensure” a “proper and thorough investigation,” ABC News said.

The outbreak originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in November before spreading to other countries, causing swaths of the global economy to shut down. Experts have said they think the virus originated in a wet market, where animals are slaughtered and sold among fresh produce.

The fallout from the crisis has caused conflict within WHO. The US has pulled its funding for the agency, accusing it of being too soft on China and accepting its misinformation as the disease began to spread.

China had adamantly opposed Australia’s initial call for an investigation, with Beijing last week saying it would impose punishing tariffs on barley and beef imports, placing barriers before Australia’s access to its biggest agricultural export market.