Australia vows to go on with pandemic probe

-While China terms Australian move as political maneuvering

Foreign Desk Report

SYDNEY: All member nations of the World Health Organization (WHO) should support a proposed independent review into the coronavirus pandemic, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, further threatening strained ties with China.
Australia has become one of most forceful critics of Beijing for its handling of the spread of the coronavirus, with Morrison urging several world leaders to support an international inquiry into its origins and spread, as well as the WHO’s response.
The COVID-19 outbreak originated in China and has since spread to infect some 2.3 million people globally and killed nearly 160,000, according to Reuters calculations. Beijing has fiercely rejected calls for an inquiry, describing the efforts as U.S.-led propaganda against China. Morrison said all members of the WHO should be obliged to participate in a review, adding that Australia would push for the inquiry during the WHO Assembly on May 17.
“We’d like the world to be safer when it comes to viruses… I would hope that any other nation, be it China or anyone else, would share that objective,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, but diplomatic ties have frayed in recent years amid allegations Beijing has committed cyber-attacks and has attempted to interfere in Canberra’s domestic affairs.
“The so-called independent inquiry proposed by Australia is in reality political manipulation,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing on Thursday. “We advise Australia to give up its ideological prejudices,” he said.
Australia’s calls for an inquiry will win favour with the White House – which has been critical of China and the World Health Organization’s handling of the pandemic, and has withdrawn U.S. funding from the U.N. agency. China said on Thursday it will donate an additional $30 million to the WHO.
There also seems to be less enthusiasm for an inquiry in Europe, with both France and Britain saying now is not the time to apportion blame. Germany’s Angela Merkel said Thursday that the WHO is an “indispensable partner” and the country supports its mandate. Morrison’s comments came just hours after a senior Australian government official called on G20 nations to end wildlife wet markets over concerns they pose a threat to human health and agricultural markets.
The outbreak in China was thought to have started in a wet market in the city of Wuhan. Wet markets are a key facet of China’s daily life, though not all sell wildlife.