World Health Organization agrees to independent virus probe after Australia's push

The World Health Organization has agreed to an international probe into the coronavirus pandemic after an Australian-led push for an independent investigation.

WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus.

WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus. Source: AAP

Australia's push for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic has been vindicated globally with widespread backing of the probe, including from China.

More than 110 countries at the World Health Assembly on Monday night backed a resolution calling for an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says the probe needs to protect against the health risks of wildlife wet markets and include all populations or partners.

"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 told the assembly.


WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus promised a review would come "at the earliest appropriate moment".

US President Donald Trump supported the probe by retweeting an SBS News/AAP Newswire story on the motion.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also backed a WHO-led review and said his country had acted with "openness and transparency and responsibility" all along.

"This work needs a scientific and professional attitude, and needs to be led by the WHO. And the principles of objectivity and fairness need to be upheld," Xi told the meeting via video.


Xi also said China would stump up $3.1 billion over the next two years to help deal with COVID-19.

But his comments came as China's commerce ministry announced that that all Australian barley imports would be slapped with tariffs totalling 80.5 per cent from Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Australia's COVID-19 death toll stands at 99 after a NSW man in his 60s with underlying health conditions died after contracting the disease from a close personal contact.

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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Published 18 May 2020 at 10:36pm, updated 19 May 2020 at 6:24am