Wednesday, May 26, 2021

US calls for 2nd phase of study into origins of novel coronavirus - AA

The US health secretary called for a second phase study into the origins of the novel coronavirus Tuesday but made no mention of a pandemic treaty supported by the European Union and the head of the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Phase 2 of the COVID origins study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak," said Xavier Becerra, who spoke virtually on the second day of the World Health Assembly (WHA).

In March, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus called for further studies after the release of an inconclusive report on an international team's field visit to Wuhan, China to research the origins of COVID-19, citing difficulties accessing raw data.

The US official also reiterated the US demand for the inclusion of Taiwan as an observer at the WHA.

  • Global collaboration

"Global collaboration will be key in tackling the many challenges still before us. Collaboration with non-state actors must continue, and we must invite Taiwan to be a part of the World Health Assembly as an observer," said Becerra.

China's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Chen Xu, later Tuesday attacked the US and Japanese delegations for calling for Taiwan's inclusion as an observer the day after the WHA had rejected the call.

He said they were challenging the "one China principle," which he said Taiwan refuses to accept.

"China protests and resolutely opposes this," said Chen, asserting that China views Taiwan as one of its provinces.

"Some countries manipulated Taiwan-related issues in order to create two Chinas," said the Chinese envoy, and were interfering in China's internal issues and "would never succeed."

Becerra spoke the day after Tedros Ghebreyesus expressed his "deep appreciation" to President Joe Biden for reversing the decision to take the United States out of the WHO and for donating $4 billion to the COVAX Facility, a global risk-sharing mechanism that seeks to procure, equitably allocate and deliver 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021 to less-developed countries.

He also thanked the US for its announcement that it will donate 80 million vaccine doses globally – the largest contribution announced – and for supporting discussions on an intellectual property waiver on vaccines.

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