Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday pushed for an independent review of the coronavirus pandemic, which Morrison said should be supported by all World Health Organization (WHO) members.
“If you’re going to be a member of a club like the World Health Organization, there should be responsibilities and obligations attached to that,” Morrison said.
The move prompted a response from China’s foreign ministry, with spokesman Geng Shuang suggesting Morrison’s move was motivated by “ideological bias” and it would be unpopular and irresponsible to force an investigation while the pandemic was still raging.
China has so far resisted an inquiry, framing criticism of its initial handling of the crisis as a propaganda effort by the Trump administration and its allies, including Morrison’s government. Trump stoked controversy last week when he announced abruptly he would halt U.S. funding to the WHO, citing concerns over its handling of the outbreak and calling the organization “China-centric.”
Even though Australia heavily depends on trade with China, diplomatic relations are strained and could further deteriorate as Morrison positions himself as a key critic of Beijing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite Morrison’s efforts, his eagerness to launch a review at this stage in the pandemic has been met with resistance in several European capitals.
While French President Emmanuel Macron said last week there “are clearly things that have happened [in China] that we don’t know about,” Macron has rejected calls for an investigation saying now is not the right time, according to a French official speaking to Reuters. Britain similarly responded the current focus should be on combating the pandemic.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres acknowledged last week that once “we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis.” But he added, “Now is not that time.”