Battle looms at WHO meeting as countries may push for inquiry into China's handling of coronavirus

Geneva [Switzerland], May 17 (ANI): The World Health Organisation (WHO), which has been on the front line coordinating the fight against the Covid-19, will be facing a similar battle when its decision-making body gathers, virtually, for its annual meeting on Monday, amid hightened tensions between China and the United States as well as other countries over Beijing's response to the pandemic outbreak.

The coronavirus will be the focus for the World Health Assembly meeting, to be attended by all 194 WHO member states plus observers, and where policies and budgets are reviewed and approved, South China Morning Post reported.

The countries including the US, Australia, Canada, France and Germany are likely to pursue an investigation into China's handling of the pandemic within the framework of the global health body. That could include taking the Chinese government to the international court.

Leaders of these countries have already made clear that they want an inquiry, including investigating the origin of the virus, whether it was initially covered up by China, and if Beijing was slow to tell the world that the virus was being transmitted between humans.

The World Health Assembly gathers in Geneva every May. This year it will be a virtual meeting because of the coronavirus.

The WHO was attacked for praising China's pandemic response as "transparent" despite Beijing's suppression of whistle-blowers and information at the start of the outbreak.

Since it was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, the coronavirus has killed more than 300,000 people and infected over 4.5 million worldwide, with the US the worst-hit country while China has largely brought its outbreak under control.

Meanwhile the US-China blame game has been ramping up, with President Donald Trump saying China should face consequences if it was found to be "knowingly responsible", tweeting that the world had been "hit by the plague from China", and suggesting the virus was linked to a Wuhan laboratory.

Beijing has however rejected those accusations and said it supported WHO efforts to investigate the virus origin but not countries "politicising" the issue and pushing for an inquiry "with a presumption of guilt".

Under the WHO constitution, the global health agency can refer unresolved disputes to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the main legal organ of the United Nations. But health and legal experts said that was unlikely - and even if it did happen, the ICJ would not be able to enforce a decision. (ANI)