New Delhi: As the World Health Assembly meets virtually on Monday, the most important on the agenda will be a resolution that is likely to ask China to open up for probe on the origin of the novel coronavirus.
The resolution doesn’t mention China’s name but says that there is need to continue to work closely with other organizations to “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to human population, including possible role of intermediate hosts” and to enable this through “collaborative field missions.”
It has been widely speculated that the novel coronavirus emerged from the wet markets in China, jumping species from bat to human. The speculation also puts the pangolin as the intermediate source of the jump from animal to human. The pangolin is believed to be consumed by some for its exotic meat and the scales are believed to be used in traditional medicine. But so far, all this is in the realms of speculation. US secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has in fact said that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIH) due to substandard practices and checks. The WIH is located close to the wet markets in Wuhan.
Now, the resolution clearly seeks on-site probe of the same. Though China in its defence has already said, that a joint team of China-WHO experts did a 9-day field visit in mid-February. The team comprised 25 experts from China, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, US and WHO.
In an exclusive interview to News18, Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong even said, “Being the first to report the virus does not mean Wuhan is its origin.” A Chinese diplomat had earlier floated a theory about how the virus was exported by the American army to China drawing a sharp reaction from the US when President Trump started referring to the novel corona virus as “Chinese virus”.
However, despite the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have come in for severe criticism in its response to the Covid-19 threat, the closest that the resolution comes to seeking accountability of the WHO is by saying “initiate consultation with member states” into “actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The US has accused the WHO of a “dangerous bias” towards China and suspended funding of the World Health Organisation pending an investigation. The resolution that in most parts backs WHO and also asks for providing “sustainable funding to WHO to ensure that it can fully respond to public health needs in the global response to Covid-19.” Interestingly, India has never responded on record to US suspending funding of the WHO but India is a cosponsor of this resolution that has not been backed by the US.