WASHINGTON - China has lashed out at Australia and the United States for what it calls political manipulation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia has been at the forefront of calls for an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic and the response to it, and U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed China for the global pandemic.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne praised the World Health Resolution passed Tuesday that demands an independent “comprehensive evaluation” of the organization’s global response to the coronavirus pandemic. The resolution was submitted to the World Health Assembly by the European Union and other WHO members. Payne described it as "a win for the international community."
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Tuesday that China would welcome the investigation if Australia would return to the broad consensus of the international community. He said Beijing has always supported a comprehensive review of the pandemic as long as it is led by the WHO and conducted in professional and impartial manner.
But U.S. President Donald Trump says the WHO is not impartial. He has accused the international agency of covering up for China, whom he blames for the global health crisis. On Tuesday, Trump threatened to permanently cut off U.S. funding for the WHO, which he had already put on hold.
China accused Trump on Tuesday of conducting a smear campaign against Beijing and said the United States is shirking its international obligations.
No dates have been set for conducting the evaluation, but China has said it should be done after the pandemic is over. Most experts agree that the coronavirus may not disappear any time soon, even if a vaccine is produced.
Nearly 4.9 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and about 323,000 have died from it, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.
China is experiencing a new wave of infections in its northeastern Jilian province, prompting the government to place thousands of residents under quarantine.
Brazil, Peru and Mexico also are experiencing a spike of COVID-19 cases after the outbreak calmed in Europe and is leveling in the United States. New cases are growing in Africa.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Monday that his country would donate $2 billion to fight the coronavirus pandemic and send physicians and supplies to developing countries, especially in Africa.
Scientists say the virus likely spread from a Wuhan market selling exotic and wild animals for food, and environmentalists and animal rights activists have demanded the elimination of the so-called “wet” markets.
The Chinese government has banned the sale of wild animals for food as part of its effort to stop the spread of the virus, but the trade is still legal for other purposes, such as research.
The official Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday that two central provinces, Hunan and Jiangxi, have come up with a program to buy out breeders of wild animals and help them transition to other livelihoods.