India supports move at WHO to seek origin of coronavirus

New Delhi, May 18 (PTI) India on Monday joined nearly 120 countries at a crucial conference of the World Health Organisation in pushing for an impartial and comprehensive evaluation of the global response into the coronavirus crisis as well as to examine the origin of the deadly infection.

The two-day 73rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the WHO began in Geneva amid growing calls including by US President Donald Trump to investigate how the virus originated in China's Wuhan city and subsequent action by Beijing.

Another flash point between China and the US has been over the Trump administration's push for inclusion of Taiwan in the WHO. China has been strongly opposed to the move as it considers Taiwan to be part of its territory.

The WHA is also expected to delve into pooling in additional resources to deal with the pandemic that has killed over 310,000 people and infected nearly 4.7 million besides wrecking the global economy.

A draft resolution pushed by the 27-nation European Union and supported by a large number of countries for deliberations at the WHA called for a step-wise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the WHO-coordinated international response to COVID-19.

It, however, did not mention China. The coronavirus pandemic was first reported in Wuhan, a port city in China in December last year. Since then, it has spread to over 180 countries.

The resolution sought scientific and collaborative field missions to trace the origin of the coronavirus, saying such an exercise will enable targeted interventions and a research agenda to reduce the risk of similar events in future.

It also called for continuing to work closely with the World Organisation for Animal Health, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and other countries as part of the 'one-health approach to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population.

The resolution says possible role of intermediate hosts should also be evaluated. It has been uploaded on the website of the WHO.

Besides India, the countries which supported the draft resolution included Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Maldives and Mexico.

Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Moldova, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK and Northern Ireland are also backing the resolution, according to the WHO.

The African Group comprising around 50 countries are also supporting the resolution. Surprisingly, the US has not figured in the list of countries backing the move.

The draft resolution also pitched for making recommendations to improve global pandemic prevention mechanism including through strengthening the WHO's health emergencies programme.

Indian officials said Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will represent India at the WHA video-conference. PTI MPB TDS TDS