Australia says all WHO members should back coronavirus inquiry

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SYDNEY: All member nations of the World Health Organization (WHO) should support a proposed independent review into the coronavirus pandemic, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday, further threatening strained ties with China.

Australia has become one of most forceful critics of Beijing for its handling of the spread of the coronavirus, with Morrison urging several world leaders to support an international inquiry into its origins and spread, as well as the WHO’s response.

The COVID-19 outbreak originated in China and has since spread to infect some 2.3 million people globally and killed nearly 160,000, according to Reuters calculations. Beijing has fiercely rejected calls for an inquiry, describing the efforts as U.S.-led propaganda against China.

Morrison said all members of the WHO should be obliged to participate in a review, adding that Australia would push for the inquiry during the WHO Assembly on May 17.

“We’d like the world to be safer when it comes to viruses… I would hope that any other nation, be it China or anyone else, would share that objective,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner, but diplomatic ties have frayed in recent years amid allegations Beijing has committed cyber-attacks and has attempted to interfere in Canberra’s domestic affairs.

“The so-called independent inquiry proposed by Australia is in reality political manipulation,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing. “We advise Australia to give up its ideological prejudices,” he said. —Agencies

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