The World Health Organization will on Monday kick off its first-ever virtual assembly, but fears abound that US-China tensions could derail the strong action needed to address the COVID-19 crisis. A number of heads of state, government chiefs, health ministers and other dignitaries are expected to attend the meeting, which is due to kick off around noon on Monday. He has also suspended funding to the WHO over allegations it initially downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak and was kowtowing to Beijing.
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The resolution also calls for the WHO to work closely with other international agencies and countries to identify the animal source of the virus and figure out how it first jumped to humans. Taiwan was invited to attend the WHA for a number of years as an observer, but that stopped in 2016, with the entrance of a new Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to recognize the concept that Taiwan is part of “one China”.
The World Health Assembly, which has been trimmed from the usual three weeks to just two days, Monday and Tuesday, is expected to focus almost solely on COVID-19, which in a matter of months has killed more than 310,000 globally, and infected nearly 4.7 million.WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday the event would be “one of the most important (WHAs) since we were founded in 1948”.Despite the tensions, countries hope to adopt by consensus a resolution urging a joint response to the pandemic.
While diplomats have agreed in principle on the draft resolution, observers voiced concerns that in the current politicized atmosphere, some countries might still choose to break the consensus next week. Nearly 15 countries, including Belize, Guatemala, the Marshall Islands, and Honduras, have written to Tedros asking that the question of Taiwan’s participation be added to the agenda.
But the chance of reaching an agreement on global measures to address the crisis could be threatened by steadily deteriorating relations between the world’s two largest economies over the pandemic.
US President Donald Trump last week threatened to cut ties with China, where the outbreak began late last year, over its role in the spread of COVID-19, and has repeatedly made unproven allegations that the virus originated in a Chinese lab.
The resolution, tabled by the European Union, calls for an “impartial, independent, and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the COVID crisis.
Consultations around the text concluded last week after “tough” negotiations, according to Nora Kronig, who heads the international affairs division of Switzerland’s public health office.
After several days, a tentative agreement was reached to approve the resolution, which also calls for more equitable access for tests, medical equipment, potential treatments, and a possible future vaccine.
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