Australia seeks to investigate spread of coronavirus, France and UK say now is not the time


SYDNEY / GENEVA – Australia called for support for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic during calls with US President Donald Trump and the major powers, but France and Britain have said that it was time to fight the virus, not to blame.

Australia’s pressure for an independent review of the origins and spread of the pandemic, including the response from the World Health Organization (WHO), has drawn strong criticism from China, which has accused lawmakers Australians to take instructions from the United States.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Twitter that he had “a very constructive discussion” with Trump on the two countries’ responses to COVID-19 and the need to get the economies going.

“We have also talked about WHO and working together to improve the transparency and effectiveness of international responses to pandemics,” he tweeted.

The White House fiercely criticized China and the WHO, and withdrew US funding from the United Nations agency.

Morrison also spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on the role of WHO, his office said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly stated that the United Nations agency will assess its management of the pandemic once it is over and draw the appropriate lessons, as it does after all emergencies.

Macron said Morrison was not the time for an investigation, said a French official.

“He says that it is appropriate that there were some problems at the start, but that the urgency is for cohesion, that it is not time to talk about it, while reaffirming the need for transparency for all the actors, not just for the WHO, ”an Elysée official told Reuters.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there would be a time when Britain would have to consider the lessons to be learned from the crisis, but so far the ministers have focused on tackling the pandemic.

Britain has been criticized by the opposition Labor Party for its slow response and its failure to provide enough tests and protective equipment for the front liners.

In Berlin, the government confirmed that Merkel spoke to Morrison on Tuesday. His spokesman said on Friday, “The coronavirus first appeared in China. China has suffered greatly from the virus and has done much to control the spread. “

The coronavirus, which is said to have emerged in a market in Wuhan, central China, was first reported by China to WHO on December 31.

WHO informed member states of the outbreak on January 5 and publicly warned a week later that there was “limited” human-to-human transmission. WHO officials arrived in Wuhan on January 20 after the virus spread to three other countries. He then declared a global emergency on January 30.

The virus has since infected some 2.3 million people worldwide and killed nearly 160,000, according to Reuters calculations.

Australia is examining whether the WHO should be empowered, like international weapons inspectors, to enter a country to investigate an outbreak without having to wait for its consent, a government source told Reuters.

High-level Australian lawmakers have also questioned Beijing’s transparency on the pandemic.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra said in a statement on Tuesday that Australian lawmakers were acting as Trump’s spokesperson and “some Australian politicians are parroting what these Americans have said and are following them just by carrying out political attacks on the China”.

Australia registered just over 6,600 cases of the virus nationwide, with four new cases on Wednesday. Infection rates fell from 25% in mid-March to less than 1% per day.

Lawmakers plan to lighten some sidewalks, with the iconic Bondi Beach in Australia set to partially reopen next week.

($ 1 = $ 1.59 A) (Report by Kirsty Needham and Colin Packham in Sydney; Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Michel Rose in Paris, Willima James in London and Andreas Rinke in Berlin: Editing by Nick Macfie)


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