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Brussels has won the support of 122 countries for its draft World Health Assembly resolution demanding a probe into animal-to-human transmitted diseases. It also calls for an independent inquiry into the World Health Organisation’s performance and plans for handling future international outbreaks. The resolution has been backed by the EU’s 27 member states, Britain, Australia, Turkey, Japan and South Korea.
But it has set up a potential row with China and the United States, who have refused to back the investigation.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has urged Beijing to reconsider its position on the probe.
The German has said the world must learn lessons from COVID-19 and should establish an early-warning system for future outbreaks.
Brussels’ top diplomat Josep Borrell has also said the bloc would push for a “scientific and independent inquiry” into the “origins of the pandemic”.
The motion called for the WHO to open a “stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation, including using existing mechanisms, as appropriate, to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19”.
The probe should be launched at “at the earliest appropriate moment” and in consultation with WHO member states.
The UK has co-sponsored the motion that also calls for “scientific and collaborative field missions” as part of an effort to identify the “source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts”.
The resolution does not specifically mention China or Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated.
China has refused to sponsor the motion, but it is understood that it could accept the adoption of the resolution.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “There will need to be a review, not least so we can ensure we are better prepared for future global pandemics.”
An EU foreign affairs spokeswoman said: “We need to have the support of all major players and China is one of them.
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“It is not the moment for any kind of blame game.”
Meanwhile, the WHO has warned Europe to prepare for a second wave of infections this winter.
Dr Hans Kluge, a top official at the Organisation, said the Continent should think again before relaxing its lockdowns.
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“Singapore and Japan understood early on that this is not a time for celebration, it’s a time for preparation,” he said.
“That’s what Scandinavian countries are doing – they don’t exclude a second wave, but they hope it will be localised and they can jump on it quickly.”
Dr Kluge added: “I’m very concerned about a double wave – in the fall, we could have a second wave of COVID and another one of seasonal flu or measles.”
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