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China allows WHO to trace coronavirus’ origin, rebukes US exit move from UN body

By PTI
|

Beijing, July 08: China on Wednesday slammed the US decision to withdraw from the WHO as it geared up for a visit by the health agency's experts to probe the origin of the coronavirus.

Zhao Lijian

The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its decision to withdraw the US from the World Health Organization (WHO), breaking off ties with the global health body despite the raging coronavirus pandemic in the country.

US President Donald Trump said he was halting funding to the organisation in mid-April and announced his intention to withdraw from the WHO in May after he said it "failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms."

Reacting to the move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, "this is yet another example of US upholding unilateralism, withdrawing from treaties and groupings."

The US has accused the WHO of siding with China on the outbreak of the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, alleging the health body misled the world resulting in deaths of over half a million people globally, including over 130,000 in America alone.

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"The WHO is the world's leading public authority on global public health security. It plays an essential coordinating role in the global response to COVID-19 as it enters a crucial stage. Supporting WHO means supporting international cooperation against the virus and it means more lives saved," Zhao said.

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    The US move will undermine the international anti-epidemic efforts and has a serious negative impact on developing countries in urgent need of international support, he said.

    "We urge the US to fulfil its due obligations and international responsibilities. We call on the international community to consolidate consensus on multilateralism and step up support and inputs to the WHO to jointly safeguard the public health security," he said.

    On the WHO team's visit later this week to China to begin its probe into the origin of the COVID-19, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, Zhao said the team should also visit other countries to determine the zoonotic source of the virus.

    Ever since the US and several other countries questioned China's handling of the virus and the alleged delay in informing the WHO and the rest of the world resulting in the massive spread of the virus, Beijing denied any such delay on its part. China also denied the US allegations that the virus has escaped from a virology lab in Wuhan.

    For its part, China sought to shift the blame, saying that the virus may have originated elsewhere and surfaced in Wuhan. Zhao, who in March tweeted saying that "it might be the US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan" during last year's world military games, said in his Wednesday's press meet that the origin tracing is a serious and complicated scientific matter that should be studied by scientists and medical professions.

    He quoted Michael J Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme as saying that the origin detection is a complicated process and "there might be multiple possibilities on the source and will keep an open attitude".

    Zhao said China has agreed for the visit of the WHO team to "make scientific plans on tracing the origin." "The experts will develop scope and terms of reference for this mission as past experience of the disease showed this is a complicated matter," he said.

    "Going forward there may need to conduct similar missions to other countries and regions in the world," he said. "The WHO has the basic consensus that origin tracing is a scientific matter that should be conducted by scientists all over the world through R&D. The WHO also believes that the process involves many countries and localities," he said, adding that the WHO should conduct trips to other places as the need arises.

    Asked about the itinerary of the WHO team to Beijing and whether it would also visit Wuhan, which is currently experiencing heavy flooding, Zhao said the details would be released later.

    The annual meeting of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the Geneva-based WHO, currently headed by India passed a unanimous resolution to probe the origin of the virus. China also backed the resolution.

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