In May, the annual meeting of World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the Geneva-based WHO, passed a unanimous resolution to probe the origin of the virus. China also backed the resolution. A two-member team from the WHO which visited China in August, completed the groundwork for the probe into the animal source and reservoirs of the COVID-19 which first emerged in Wuhan in December last year and later became a global pandemic.
At Monday’s meeting, representatives from the United States, the European Union, and Australia called on the WHO to send the team and share more details about the mission. But observers said, from an international legal perspective, the WHO could not send a team into a member state without its permission.
WHO has faced stringent criticism, especially from US President Donald Trump, who accused it of being a puppet of China for not acting in time to halt the spread of the COVID-19 when it broke out in Wuhan. Besides halting funding for WHO, the Trump administration formally notified the UN of its decision to withdraw the US from the WHO, breaking off ties with the global health body amidst the raging coronavirus pandemic. The United States has blamed the spread of Covid-19 on the WHO’s reliance on early information from Beijing, which took several weeks after the disease emerged to confirm human-to-human transmission.
Besides denying Trump’s allegations that the virus has escaped from a bio-lab in Wuhan, China also refuted allegations that it emanated from a wet market in the city from bats or pangolins before infecting humans. For its part, China sought to shift the blame saying that the virus may have originated elsewhere in the world and surfaced in Wuhan.
Analysts said WHO mission’s legitimacy would depend on who was involved and how it was run, particularly after criticism that it had pandered to China during the early weeks of the outbreak.
– Aushuman Mishra