India on Monday joined nearly 120 countries at a crucial conference of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in pushing for an independent review into the origins and spread of the coronavirus.
The two-day 73rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the WHO began in Geneva on Monday 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.
The resolution on COVID-19, initiated by the European Union and Australia, will be put forward on Tuesday if it gains backing from two-thirds of the 194 members of the assembly, the governing body of the WHO.
Names on a draft resolution seen by Reuters on Monday showed support from 116 members was locked in, although Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said negotiations were ongoing and she did not want to pre-empt the outcome.
The resolution was “an important part of the conversation we started, and I am very grateful to the efforts of those in the European Union and those many drafters who have been part of the negotiations for the past few weeks,” she told reporters.
More than 4.64 million people are reported to have been infected globally and 310,236 have died from the flu-like virus that emerged from China late last year.
Among the co-sponsors of the resolution are India, Japan, South Korea, the African group of 47 member nations, Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Canada. Surprisingly, the US has not figured in the list of countries backing the move.
The resolution calls for “scientific and collaborative field missions” to trace the path of transmission, saying this will reduce the risk of similar events. It, however, did not mention China.
It also says a review should start at the “earliest appropriate moment”. Some countries still suffering high daily death tolls from COVID-19 have said it is too soon for an investigation.
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.
Indian officials said Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will represent India at the WHA video-conference.
India is expected to be elected Chair of the Executive Board of the WHA replacing Japan.