Asia-Pacific

China says coronavirus inquiry is premature as Australian push gains supporters

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Source: AFP

China says most countries feel the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, claiming it is premature to immediately launch an investigation into its origins and spread.

China's foreign ministry says it is premature to immediately launch an investigation into the origins and spread of coronavirus which has killed more than 300,000 people globally.

Spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Monday during a daily briefing that the vast majority of countries in the world believed the pandemic was not yet over.

The ministry said in a separate statement that President Xi Jinping would give a video speech later on Monday for the opening ceremony of the World Health Assembly.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been pushing for the inquiry while Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was pleased to see it gather support.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been pushing for the inquiry while Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was pleased to see it gather support.
AAP

More than 110 countries have backed Australia's push for an independent coronavirus inquiry which has caused a damaging rift with China.

The African Group's 54 member states will co-sponsor the motion, joining 62 other countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain and Canada.

The European Union's 27 members are all on board, along with Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and New Zealand.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday said it was encouraging to see so many countries backing the inquiry. 

"I think what it illustrates is a broad view that given the experience of COVID-19 - over 300,000 deaths, millions of people around the world losing their jobs, the impact on economies from one corner of the globe to the other - that there is a strong view that it is appropriate to engage in a review of what has happened.

"I don't want to preempt speculate about the outcome, those discussions will be under way later this evening. I think it's a win for the international community."

The draft resolution calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.

It doesn't mention China, but Australia's push for the inquiry has angered Beijing, which has threatened a huge tariff on barley and blocked some beef imports.

Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the virtual World Health Assembly meeting on Monday night.

A vote is expected in the early hours of Tuesday.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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