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World Health Assembly Session - COVID-19

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May 21, 2020

Why in news?

The 73rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) took place virtually from May 18-19, 2020.

What is the WHA?

  • The WHA is the decision making body of the WHO.
  • The Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland and attended by member states of WHO.
  • During the Assembly, the WHO’s 194 member states discuss health agendas set by the body’s Executive Board.
  • They also set new goals and assign tasks to fulfil these goals.
  • Due to Covid-19, the Assembly was held virtually this year, and has been fit into a two-day schedule from a three-week schedule.

What was the resolution at the meet?

  • A resolution was brought forward by the European Union (EU) and was endorsed at the Assembly.
  • During the session, countries including India, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, UK and Canada accepted the resolution.
  • Reportedly, 116 of the 194 member states were in favour of the resolution.
  • It asked for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the WHO's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The resolution also called for identification of the “zoonotic” source of the coronavirus.
  • The origin of the virus is currently believed to be a wet market in Wuhan, China.
  • Apart from this, the Assembly also addressed a global vaccine action plan with the “Immunisation Agenda 2030”.
  • This aims to ensure immunisation for all age groups to prevent the spread of preventable diseases and sustaining vaccine supplies.

What does the resolution demand?

  • The resolution does not mention China.
  • It, however, says the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should continue to work closely with the -
  1. World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
  2. the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (UN FAO)
  3. countries
  • This is as part of the One-Health Approach to 'identify the zoonotic source of the virus'.
  • Also, the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts
  • The call includes efforts such as scientific and collaborative field missions.
  • This will enable targeted interventions and a research agenda to reduce the risk of similar events.
  • It will also help provide guidance on how to prevent SARS-COV2 infection in animals and humans and prevent the establishment of new zoonotic reservoirs.

Why is the resolution important?

  • Since the pandemic, there has been an increasing pressure on China.
  • China has so far opposed suggestions for inquiry into the origins of the virus.
  • Meanwhile, the US has repeatedly blamed the WHO.
  • It claims that the WHO had failed to obtain timely information and share it in a transparent fashion.
  • The US President Donald Trump said that WHO's response was “China-centric”.
  • In this backdrop, he threatened to permanently cut funding to the WHO.
  • At present, the US is the WHO’s biggest contributor and makes up over 14.67% of the total funding, at $553.1 million.
  • Given all these, the resolution gains importance.

What does this mean for China?

  • While the resolution has been endorsed, it remains to be seen how the probe will be carried out and to what degree of independence.
  • Significantly, the timeline of the probe is also not clear.
  • So far, China has opposed demands calling for an international investigation into the virus.
  • Recently, China’s premier Xi Jinping announced a $2 billion donation to the United Nations.
  • This is over twice the amount the US contributed before Trump cut off funding.
  • It also offered to set up hospitals and health infrastructure in Africa.
  • At the WHA, Xi said China “supports” the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response towards Covid-19 after it was brought under control.
  • The Trump administration however sees China’s announcement as a way to escape scrutiny.

 

Source: Indian Express

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