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EU members to push for formal probe into coronavirus origins, Canadian position unclear

Coronavirus outbreak: WHO says world must work hard to prepare for the next pandemic
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that the world must work hard to prepare for the next pandemic while responding to the current COVID-19 crisis, adding that it’s an opportunity to build resilient health systems around the world which can withstand any potential future pandemics.

European Union member states plan later this month to push for a formal international probe into how the coronavirus pandemic began and what lessons can be learned to prevent a similar future outbreak.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said it is “essential” that the world get answers and said European states are working on a draft proposal that will be put to the World Health Organization‘s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, when it meets on May 18.

It will be one of several proposals up for discussion, including rumours of a U.S. resolution to grant Taiwan observer status to the organization — a move China vehemently opposes despite the island nation’s success in stopping its spread of the coronavirus.

It is not clear how the Canadian delegation will vote at the upcoming meeting.

Global News reached out to Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s office for more information and this article will be updated with any response received.

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READ MORE: European Union predicts ‘recession of historic proportions’ over COVID-19 impact

In an email to Global News, European Commission spokesperson Virginie Battu-Henriksson said consultations on the EU proposal continue and that “initial comments on the draft are very positive.”

“The draft resolution aims to address a range of actions for states, partners, non-state actors and the WHO Secretariat as part of the global response to coronavirus,” she said.

Battu-Henriksson said the resolution “stresses the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated United Nations response to the pandemic, and a multilateral response with global solidarity and coordination.”

She also added the resolution will be a chance to commend international health officials and frontline responders for their work in combating the effects of the coronavirus.

“The draft resolution envisages calling for an independent review on lessons learnt [sic] from the international health response to the coronavirus, to strengthen future global health security preparedness,” Battu-Henriksson said.
Coronavirus outbreak: WHO says world should focus on ‘fighting the fire’ amid criticism of their handling of pandemic
Coronavirus outbreak: WHO says world should focus on ‘fighting the fire’ amid criticism of their handling of pandemic

There’s no indication at this time on how or if that European resolution might mention China.

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Scientists say that is where the virus originated and a growing swell of global voices are demanding an investigation into China’s reporting of coronavirus cases amid mounting evidence that officials there covered up early reports of cases.

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It also comes after multiple American media reports cited intelligence officials as saying there were indications of the virus as early as last fall and that Chinese case data has been faked.

The World Health Organization has come under fire for praising the Chinese response and for relying on Chinese-reported data, with critics saying that delayed its decision to declare a pandemic and impaired the ability of other states to respond to what quickly ended up becoming a global crisis.

READ MORE: Canadian WHO official ordered to testify at House of Commons committee

Dr. Bruce Aylward, a Canadian expert with the World Health Organization involved in assessing early Chinese coronavirus data, has refused requests to testify before a House of Commons committee.

Because of his refusals, a summons has now been issued for him to appear.

But it is only enforceable if he arrives for any reason on Canadian soil.

Hajdu was asked on Wednesday whether she had reached out to the World Health Organization to press the request of the committee to speak with Aylward.

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She said she has not done so, and did not say why.

READ MORE: Calls for probe into China’s coronavirus response mount — will Canada take part?

The Canadian government has faced criticism for how it has handled questions about Chinese data.

Hajdu publicly attacked a journalist who asked about evidence that China hid early reports of outbreaks, accusing them of “feeding into conspiracy theories.”

Yet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged that any international inquiry into the pandemic needs to look at “all countries involved, including China.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia was also questioned by Conservatives during a meeting of the House of Commons on Wednesday on why the government hasn’t more forcefully called for an inquiry into China’s coronavirus reporting.

Those questions cited the calls made by Australian leaders, who have been the most vocal so far in demanding answers on how the pandemic began. They also cited Australian leaders’ concerns that China is using “economic coercion” to deter efforts to investigate.

Freeland said that “it is going to be very important to have a review” and added that International Development Minister Karina Gould has spoken to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, to raise that matter.

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A readout of that phone call issued on April 20 said both Gould and the WHO chief “agreed on the critical need for a post-crisis review to improve emergency preparedness efforts in the future.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau not drawing ‘firm conclusions’ on whether virus originated in Wuhan laboratory
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau not drawing ‘firm conclusions’ on whether virus originated in Wuhan laboratory