Australia says world needs to know origins of COVID-19

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Nations around the world must do all they can to understand the origins of COVID-19, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday, comments that could escalate tensions with China.

Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, speaks virtually at the 75th Annual General Assembly of the United Nations, which is being held primarily due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York, New York, United States, September 25, 2020. United Nations / Document via REUTERS

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Morrison said an investigation into the roots of the virus would minimize the threat of another global pandemic.

“This virus has inflicted calamity on our world and its people. We have to do everything we can to figure out what happened for the sole purpose of preventing it from happening again, ”Morrison said via a video teleconference link.

“There is a clear mandate to identify the zoonotic source of the COVID-19 virus and how it was transmitted to humans.”

Morrison’s comments follow similar comments from the Prime Minister earlier in the year that damaged Australia’s ties with China.

At that time, he was leading global demands for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. China strongly rejected the move, with Beijing’s ambassador to Canberra warning that calls for the investigation could harm trade relations.

Since then, China has imposed trade sanctions on Australia. It suspended some beef imports for technical reasons and effectively blocked a barley trade of AU $ 439 million ($ 308.5 million) by imposing tariffs of 80.5% on Australian imports. China has also launched an anti-dumping investigation into imports of Australian wines.

Meanwhile, Australia has called on all nations to share a COVID-19 vaccine if one is developed.

Australia signed vaccine deal with AstraZeneca earlier this year AZN.L, the first batches to be delivered in January 2021 if the tests prove to be successful.

Australia has announced it will share supplies with smaller Pacific island countries.

(1 USD = 1,4231 dollars australiens)

Reporting by Colin Packham; Edited by Cynthia Osterman

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