Britain backs investigation into origins of coronavirus, amid hopes China will accept independent review

There are international calls to examine “the source of the virus” – HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images/HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

Britain is backing efforts to establish an World Health Organisation (WHO) investigation into the origins of coronavirus that has so far been blocked by China.

The push for an independent inquiry – led by Australia and the EU – is set to be tabled at a meeting of the World Health Assembly tomorrow.

The UK is a co-sponsor of the motion that calls for “scientific and collaborative field missions” with the aim of identifying the “source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts”.

The motion does not specifically mention China or Wuhan but calls for the WHO and World Organisation for Animal Health to investigate the origin of the virus.

While China is not sponsoring the motion, it is understood they will accept the adoption of the resolution.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “There will need to be a review into the pandemic, not least so that we can ensure we are better prepared for future global pandemics. 

“The resolution at the World Health Assembly is an important step towards this.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to deliver a video message to the assembly tomorrow.

Virginie Battu-Henriksson, the EU’s spokeswoman for foreign affairs, said the organisation was focused on reaching a consensus for an inquiry.

“Of course, we need to have the support of all the major players, and China is one of them,” she said.

“For us, it is not the moment for us to enter any kind of blame game as we’ve seen in narratives from one part or another of the world.”

China has so far resisted calls for an independent international investigation into the origin of the coronavirus.

Diplomat Chen Wen, of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, previously said demands were “politically motivated” and would divert attention away from fighting the pandemic.

She said: “We are fighting the virus at the moment, we are concentrating all our efforts on fighting against the virus. Why talk about an investigation into this? This will divert not only attention, it will divert resources.”

It follows a recent study from biologists, which suggests coronavirus did not origin in a wet market as originally thought.

“The publicly available genetic data does not point to cross-species transmission of the virus at the market,” said Alina Chan, a molecular biologist, and Shing Zhan, an evolutionary biologist.

The research suggests that the virus was taken into the market by someone already carrying the disease.

The scientists claim they were “surprised” to find the virus was “already pre-adapted to human transmission” and call for all routes for animal to human transmission to be examined.

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