Inquiry into origins of coronavirus passes as China calls it 'a joke'

Inquiry into origins of coronavirus passes as China calls it 'a joke'
Leaders have agreed to launch an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic as soon as possible after a resolution passed at the World Health Assembly.
Led by the European Union and co-sponsored by more than 130 World Health Organisation member states, the motion passed late on Tuesday night.
China appeared to bow to international pressure, agreeing at the last minute to formally support an eventual probe – but only "after the global epidemic is under control".
Earlier, China had lashed out at claims Australia's push for an international inquiry into the coronavirus had been vindicated, labelling it a "joke".
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the World Health Assembly on May 18, 2020. (Twitter)
Speaking on Wednesday, Nationals senator Matt Canavan, a former resources minister, said China's comments were clearly provocative but hardly surprising.
"It's a cheap shot. It's a bit tawdry. It's unfortunate what's happened," Mr Canavan told Today.
"We are disappointed in the decisions of the Chinese Government, but look, every change, every crisis, which this is, creates an opportunity. So, we've got to focus now what other things we can do. We're actively seeking other markets for our barley.
"In my view, the Australian Government's done absolutely the right thing and we've been vindicated at the World Health Assembly."
READ MORE:Stay up-to-date with rolling 9News coverage of the coronavirus outbreak
In a joint statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Australian government welcomed the adoption of the "landmark resolution".
"There is also a clear mandate to identify the source of the COVID-19 virus and how it was transmitted to humans, which will be necessary to prevent and reduce the risks of the emergence of new diseases that pass from animals to humans," the statement said.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Health Greg Hunt during a press conference on the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, at Parliament House in Canberra on April 9, 2020. (Alex Ellinghausen)
"Australia has been clear and transparent in calling for an independent review into COVID-19, which is an unprecedented global health and economic crisis.
"Australia will continue to be a consistent and constructive voice in the international community to advance and protect our national interest and the global interest."
READ MORE:China lashes out at Australia call for global pandemic investigation
Australia's push for the inquiry into the origin of the virus sparked fury from Beijing, with diplomatic ties between the two nations under intense pressure.
Senior government figures claim the inquiry vindicates the government's stance, prompting a scathing response from China's embassy in Australia.
"The draft resolution on COVID-19 to be adopted by the World Health Assembly is totally different from Australia's proposal of an independent international review," a spokesman told AAP on Tuesday.
"To claim the WHA's resolution a vindication of Australia's call is nothing but a joke."
READ MORE:China imposes 80 per cent barley tariffs on Australia
Senior cabinet minister David Littleproud denied the investigation was about confronting China.
"This wasn't about persecution, this was about understanding a pandemic that 300,000 souls lost their lives to," he said in Toowoomba.
"We should be damn proud Australia is now leading the world."
Mr Hunt argued Australia's case for the inquiry at the assembly.
He said the probe should look at health risks from wildlife wet markets, where the virus is likely to have originated in China.
"We need to learn the lessons from this pandemic and ensure we have the strongest possible global health architecture, with an enhanced ability to prevent and respond to future outbreaks," he said.
The WHO promised the review would happen at the earliest appropriate time.
The WHA resolution commits to an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.
US President Donald Trump supported the probe by tweeting a link to an AAP/SBS story on the motion.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also backed the WHO-led review, saying his country had acted with openness, transparency and responsibility all along.
He promised China would stump up $3.1 billion over the next two years to help deal with the disease.
Australia's relations with China have come under further strain after Beijing slapped an 80 per cent tariff on barley imports and banned beef imports from four abattoirs.
COVID-19 has killed 100 people across Australia, with fewer than 600 cases still active out of more than 7000 total.
Four nursing homes in Melbourne have gone into lockdown after a resident from each were tested for the virus.
Three have returned positive results while results for a fourth are pending.
Tasmania expects to set a date for reopening its border in July once the third step of easing restrictions is taken.
– Reported with AAP
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© AAP 2020