May 19 (UPI) — A resolution led by the European Union and Australia to establish an independent review of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic unanimously passed the World Health Assembly Tuesday.
The approval from all 194 member nations of the Assembly, which meets each year to set the agenda and budget of the World Health Organization, set the stage for an inquiry to begin as soon as possible.
The EU and Australia had called for the probe over the objections of China, where it is believed the global pandemic began.
More than 4.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed as of Tuesday, claiming nearly 320,000 lives, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The resolution approved Tuesday calls for the review to be “impartial, independent and comprehensive” and for the effort to be handled by WHO itself.
After first dismissing Australia’s calls for a probe as merely “ideological bias and political games,” China eventually co-sponsored the measure as well, giving it a worldwide consensus.
“I thank member states for adopting the COVID-19 resolution, which calls for an independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response — including, but not limited to, WHO’s performance,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “I will initiate an evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Health Minister Greg Hunt issued a joint statement saying the vote demonstrated “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 United States voiced support for the measure after harshly criticizing WHO’s performance on Monday, the first day of the 73rd annual World Health Assembly, which for the first time was held remotely.
Washington called the resolution “an important contribution” to understanding “the source of the virus, timeline of events, early discussions, and the decision-making process for the WHO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”