Countries That Want To Investigate China's COVID-19 Claims

By Ellen Kershner on June 19 2020 in Society

People in Chengdu, China during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image credit: IHOR SULYATYTSKYY/Shutterstock.com
People in Chengdu, China during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image credit: IHOR SULYATYTSKYY/Shutterstock.com
  • The COVID-19 outbreak started in Wuhan, China
  • Authorities have been questioning how and why the outbreak was able to spread so quickly, and many have questioned China’s role in the pandemic.
  • In mid-May, the WHO held a meeting, and 122 of their 195 member states were planning to call for an independent investigation into the coronavirus outbreak
  • In early June, the Associated Press reported that China caused significant delays for WHO by not providing the information needed to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

By now, the world is aware that the COVID-19 outbreak started in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global health health emergency on January 30, 2020, and as of June 10, there were 7,356,001 confirmed cases, 414,430 deaths, and 3,629,488 recovered.

On December 31, 2019, Chinese health authorities confirmed that dozens of people in Wuhan were in treatment for pneumonia, many of whom had been at a live animal market in the city. They reported the first death on January 11, 2020; ten days later a man from Washington state who had been to Wuhan was diagnosed with COVID-19. Additional cases were reported in Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. WHO declared the global health emergency on January 30.

The Lab Theory

For months, authorities have been questioning how and why the outbreak was able to spread so quickly, and many have questioned China’s role in the pandemic. Many feel that important information was withheld; others have insisted that there was a conspiracy theory and that Chinese authorities provided false data. In April, President Trump claimed that he believed the outbreak originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is a research lab located a few miles from the market. U.S. intelligence officials are investigating his claims.

The WHO Meeting

In mid-May, the WHO held a meeting, and 122 of their 195 member states were planning to call for an independent investigation into the coronavirus outbreak and course of the pandemic, despite initial protests from China. Business Insider reported that the number of nations supporting this was closer to 110, though.

Before WHO’s meeting took place, a draft resolution paper was filed. The document urged the international community to take steps to "identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population.” It also stipulated the need to discover the possible roles of all intermediate hosts through collaborative scientific research and field missions. An investigation into China’s role was not specifically mentioned in the paper, though.

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Countries Calling For An Investigation

The United States is not the only country that is calling out for an investigation into how China handled the coronavirus outbreak. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison also called for an investigation into the source of the pandemic. He stated that it made sense that the world “would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again.”

In April, Australian news outlets reported that a global inquiry into COVID-19’s origins was needed, and that their Foreign Minister Marise Payne urged China to allow transparency throughout the process. She did not feel that WHO should be in charge of the investigation.

China’s Response To The Allegations

Chinese state media has responded with inflammatory statements, and reportedly stated that Australia was the “gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe.” They also warned that this could cause damage to their trading partnership and long-term relationship. China ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said that they would welcome an independent, international review as long as it was organized by WHO, but authorities have also stated that it is too early to do so. The United States does not support a WHO-led investigation, either.

In early June, the Associated Press reported that China caused significant delays for WHO by not providing the information needed to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus. According to NBC News, China did not release the genome of the virus for over a week after it had been decoded by three government labs. They released this information only after it was posted on virologist website on January 11, 2020, and waited two more weeks before sharing data with WHO about cases and patients. It is possible that these delays slowed the global response, including recognition of the virus, and the development of testing, treatments, and vaccines.

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