Amid calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Monday gave its nod to “initiate an independent evaluation” at “the earliest appropriate moment”. This came after 61 countries, including India, had moved a resolution at the World Health Assembly (WHA) — the WHO’s decision-making body — asking for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the WHO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as identification of “the zoonotic source” of the coronavirus.
The draft resolution, which is moved by Australia, has also been signed by Albania, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, San Marino, Sierra Leone, South Africa, the European Union and its Member States, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Zambia.
According to Reuters, the draft resolution has support of 116 out of 194 member countries in the WHO, including 27 European Union (EU) nations.
The virus is widely believed to have originated from a wet market in China’s Wuhan, where the first case of Covid-19 was reported. China, which was initially against a probe into the origin of the virus, has now relented against the mounting global pressure
What does the WHO draft resolution says?
In the operative portion of the seven-page draft, the signatory countries have requested the Director General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to work with World Organisation for Animal Health to conduct “scientific and collaborative field missions” and “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts”.
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“Continue to work closely with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and 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, including the possible role of intermediate hosts, including through efforts such as scientific and collaborative field missions, which will enable targeted interventions and a research agenda to reduce the risk of similar events as well as to provide guidance on how to prevent SARS-COV2 infection in animals and humans and prevent the establishment of new zoonotic reservoirs, as well as to reduce further risks of emergence and transmission of zoonotic diseases,” the draft says.
Without naming China, the signatory countries ask the DG to “initiate at the earliest appropriate moment…a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response, and the actions of the WHO and its “timeline” of the pandemic.
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It also asks to “review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19” including, the effectiveness of the mechanisms at WHO’s disposal, WHO’s contribution to UN-wide efforts and the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the preparedness against the coronavirus, the draft calls on member states to “put in place a whole of government and whole of society response” through implementing a “national, cross-sectoral COVID-19 action plan that outlines both immediate and long term actions with a view to sustainably strengthening their health system and social care and support systems, preparedness, surveillance and response capacities as well as taking into account, according to national context, WHO guidance”.
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