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May 22, 2020

WHO probe

Editorial

 
May 22, 2020

The demand for a global investigation into the spread of the novel coronavirus is gaining momentum. The 73th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva has discussed the issue and the head of the WHO has declared that the global body will look into the lessons of the covid-19 pandemic. The WHO director-general has also promised that he would initiate an independent evaluation to review experiences gained and lessons learned so that global preparedness for such pandemics can be improved and the world is able to respond in a better way if any such crises strike again. On the other hand, China has also supported a comprehensive review of the global response to the covid-19 pandemic. China has suggested that the WHO be leading such a probe, but that should be done once the virus that caused the disease is brought under control. This has been proposed by none other than Chinese President Xi Jinping himself on Monday 18 while addressing the WHA in a video speech.

Australia and the European Union have also called for a review of the origin and spread of the novel coronavirus. Lately, international support for such investigations has been mounting as the virus has claimed over 0.325 million people worldwide and the ultimate death toll by the end of this year is projected to be around a million or so. Earlier, a draft resolution was backed by the WHO’s 62 countries which sought to identify scientific ‘events’ that could have contributed to the spread of the novel coronavirus and the consequent covid-19 pandemic. Australia and the EU, among others, have called for an evaluation into how animal and food-related sources could lead to the spread of the deadly pandemic. The main challenge is to delve deep into the origin of the virus. Initially, China had opposed such calls for investigating this matter from the US, but now the president of China has signaled his willingness to an impartial review.

Irrespective of any spats between America and China, a comprehensive evaluation of the origin of the virus and the global response to the pandemic will surely help the world community in its learning and response methods. But China is still insisting that any such probe be initiated only when the pandemic is under control. It should be left to the professional and scientific community to decide about the best time for such a probe. There are two conflicting opinions on this issue: one is for an immediate inquiry and the other is hinting that at this moment all efforts be directed towards containing the virus. Whether the probe is done right now or at a later stage, fairness and objectivity should be held supreme, without which we may never know the correct answers, and an entire exercise may result in furthering blame on each other.