China trashes Australia’s virus probe win

Australia

China has lashed out at claims Australia’s push for an international probe into the coronavirus has been vindicated, labelling it a “joke”.

China agreed to support an investigation after more than 110 countries co-sponsored a motion at the World Health Assembly on Monday night.

The WHA resolution calls for an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.

Australia’s push for the inquiry into the origin of the virus sparked fury from Beijing, with diplomatic ties between the two nations under intense pressure.

Senior government figures claim the inquiry vindicates the government’s stance, prompting a scathing response from China’s embassy in Australia.

“The draft resolution on COVID-19 to be adopted by the World Health Assembly is totally different from Australia’s proposal of an independent international review,” a spokesman told AAP on Tuesday.

“To claim the WHA’s resolution a vindication of Australia’s call is nothing but a joke.”

Nationals senator Matt Canavan, a former resources minister, said those comments were clearly provocative but hardly surprising.

“The conduct of the Chinese government over this period, but also the last few years, has been hard to predict and increased risk for Australian business,” he told ABC television.

Senior cabinet minister David Littleproud denied the investigation was about confronting China.

“This wasn’t about persecution, this was about understanding a pandemic that 300,000 souls lost their lives to,” he said in Toowoomba.

“We should be damn proud Australia is now leading the world.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt argued Australia’s case for the inquiry at the assembly.

He said the probe should look at health risks from wildlife wet markets, where the virus is likely to have originated in China.

“We need to learn the lessons from this pandemic and ensure we have the strongest possible global health architecture, with an enhanced ability to prevent and respond to future outbreaks,” he said.

The World Health Organisation promised the review would happen at the earliest appropriate time.

US President Donald Trump supported the probe by tweeting a link to an AAP/SBS story on the motion.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also backed the WHO-led review, saying his country had acted with openness, transparency and responsibility all along.

He promised China would stump up $3.1 billion over the next two years to help deal with the disease.

Australia’s relations with China have come under further strain after Beijing slapped an 80 per cent tariff on barley imports and banned beef imports from four abattoirs.

COVID-19 has killed 100 people across Australia, with fewer than 600 cases still active out of more than 7000 total.

Four nursing homes in Melbourne have gone into lockdown after a resident from each were tested for the virus.

Three have returned positive results while results for a fourth are pending.

Tasmania expects to set a date for reopening its border in July once the third step of easing restrictions is taken.

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