April 22, 2020 16:22:46
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking to build an international coalition to give the World Health Organisation (WHO) or another body powers equivalent to those of a weapons inspector to avoid another catastrophic pandemic.
- The leaders of the US, Germany and France are understood to be open to the idea
- Mr Morrison is pushing for a body with inspection powers to monitor disease outbreaks
- The Australian Government is unsure if the WHO is the best option, as each of the 194 member states have veto power over reforms
Mr Morrison has pitched the proposal to several world leaders in recent days, including United States President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Australia is keen to ensure the lessons from the COVID-19 outbreak are not forgotten, especially the WHO’s tardy declaration of the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, the pandemic has seen more than 2.5 million infections and 177,500 deaths.
There has been widespread international concern that China not only downplayed the seriousness of the virus, but had undue influence over the WHO, which did not declare the outbreak a global pandemic until March 11 a fortnight after Australia declared it a pandemic.
“The actions that the Australian Government have taken and that included getting out well ahead of the World Health Organisation at Dr [Brendan] Murphy’s very insightful advice,” Mr Morrison said on February 27.
The Australian Government believes that, in order to understand and suppress future disease outbreaks, the world needs unfettered access to data and medical information.
One of the limitations under the WHO, founded in 1948, is that international officials must be invited by nations before being allowed to investigate.
The Government is somewhat dubious of the chances of reforming the WHO, which gives veto power to each of its 194 member states.
It is understood Mr Trump, Ms Merkel and Mr Macron broadly agree with Australia’s proposal to significantly bolster world health inspection powers.
Given the barriers to reforming the WHO, the Australian Government believes establishing a new world health oversight body may be the best option.
PM speaks to Bill Gates on WHO
The COVID-19 virus outbreak is believed to have started in a Wuhan wet market, which reopened earlier this month.
China first reported a case of “pneumonia of unknown cause” to the WHO’s China headquarters on December 31, 2019.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has proposed an independent international review of the coronavirus outbreak but is yet to settle on a preferred mechanism.
Labor has backed Senator Payne’s call for an independent review.
Mr Trump last week suspended US funding to the WHO as his administration launches its own investigation into the pandemic.
The US is the WHO’s biggest donor, accounting for about 20 per cent of its budget.
The second-largest WHO donor is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which upped its contribution after Mr Trump’s decision.
Mr Morrison spoke to Bill Gates on Tuesday morning about the WHO.
What you need to know about coronavirus: