Israel backs international push for independent probe of COVID-19’s origin
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Israel backs international push for independent probe of COVID-19’s origin

Foreign Ministry says Jerusalem supports motion pushed by EU and Australia, expected to pass this week at WHO assembly; China has condemned the proposal

The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland, file (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)
The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland, file (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)

Israel will back a push for an independent evaluation of the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including an inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus.

The motion, which has been condemned by China as an attempt to scapegoat it, has the support of more than half of the member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) and will be discussed this week at the decision-making body of the UN health agency, which is being held virtually this year.

The European Union has drafted the resolution, cosponsored by dozens of countries. It has been gaining support and is expected to be approved in a vote at the World Health Assembly.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson told The Times of Israel on Monday that Israel will be among the countries supporting the motion.

The resolution calls on WHO’s director general to continue efforts to “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts,” in order to curb its spread and “to reduce the risk of similar events.”

The proposal is also intended to initiate “a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” with the purpose being “to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.”

In this photo taken on March 11, 2020, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

The probe would include an evaluation of the functioning of international health laws and WHO’s actions within the greater UN health system, and would aim “to improve global pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response capacity, including through strengthening… WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.”

Australia has been seen as a leader in rallying global support for the inquiry, attracting Chinese criticism that it is parroting the United States and inviting a Chinese boycott of exports and services.

Some US officials have accused China of attempting to cover up the source of the pathogen, as well as failing to warn the world about the disease.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed earlier this month that there was “enormous evidence” that the pandemic originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China. He declined to say whether he thought the virus had been intentionally released.

Opening the World Health Assembly Monday, UN Chief Antonio Guterres said the world was paying a “heavy price” for the lack of consistent strategies against the virus, calling out countries that dragged their feet or ignored health guidelines.

AP contributed to this report.

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