A coalition of 62 nations will support Australia’s call for an independent probe into the origins of coronavirus.
The new resolution demands an independent investigation into the international response to the pandemic and the actions of the World Health Organisation.
It is backed by the entire 27-member European Union along with New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, the UK, India, Canada, Russia, Mexico and Brazil, and is to be put to the World Health Assembly for a vote on Tuesday.
The assembly, made up of health ministers of the World Health Organisation’s 194 member states, meets once a year in Geneva, Switzerland, to set health policy for the WHO.
This year it will be held online, and Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt will present its position in the resolution’s debate.
The motion is a toughened-up version of an earlier EU resolution.
It requires WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to ‘initiate at the earliest appropriate moment, and in consultation with Member States, a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation’.
The new resolution demands a review of ‘experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19’.
It calls for reviews into the ‘effectiveness of the mechanisms at WHO’s disposal’, and ‘the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic’.
However, the motion does not specifically mention China or the city of Wuhan where the outbreak is believed to have begun.
The US has been pushing for tougher language calling to investigate specifically how it started in Wuhan.
Australia’s most powerful ally has not co-sponsored the bill, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged all nations to back Australia’s call for answers.
China has been accused of covering up the severity of the pandemic after it emerged, costing the world vital weeks of preparation.
China’s President Xi Jinping knew about the coronavirus on January 7, yet China only shut down the epicentre of the outbreak, Hubei province, on January 23, after five million people had left to travel through China and to the rest of the world.
The draft resolution says the WHO should work with the World Organisation for Animal Health 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.’
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month there was ‘enormous evidence’ that the virus did not come from an animal source from nature, but from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China’s only biosecurity level four lab.
The lab was located close to the Wuhan wet market which was initially blamed for the outbreak.
Scientists had previously believed the virus jumped from bats to an unidentified intermediary species before infecting humans at the Wuhan wet market where wild animals are kept in cages and slaughtered for meat.
However this earlier theory is now considered unlikely after a short paper from February 6 written by scientists Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao, both from Wuhan universities, called ‘The possible origins of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus’.