China supports review of global response to pandemic, as calls for inquiry grow

  • Video report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

China's President Xi Jinping has said his country will support a review of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic after it is brought under control.

Speaking via video-conference at the start of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual assembly, Mr Xi also said his country would provide £1.6 billion over two years to help with the response to the pandemic.

His comments come amid calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the pandemic - led by Australia - while in the US President Donald Trump has accused the WHO of helping China to "cover up" the extent of the initial Covid-19 outbreak.

In his address, Mr Xi also said that vaccine development and deployment of vaccines in China will be made a "global public good".

The Chinese President defended his country's handling of the outbreak, telling officials that China provided all relevant outbreak data to WHO and other countries - including the virus's genetic sequence - "in a most timely fashion."

Shop clerks wear face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus as they wait for customers at an outdoor shopping area in Beijing. Credit: AP

The pledge marks a sharp contrast to the Trump administration - which announced a suspension of its funding for the WHO over what the US claimed was a mishandling of the outbreak and praise of China's response.

Coronavirus has infected more than 4.7 million people across the world and killed more than 315,000, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Speaking on Monday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations called the ongoing pandemic "the greatest challenge of our age".

Antonio Guterres echoed the WHO's repeated calls for global solidarity, saying "we are all paying a heavy price" for the sometimes contradictory national responses to the pandemic.

Heath workers spray disinfectants at an auto spares market a day anticipating a partial reopening during a lockdown in New Delhi. Credit: AP

Elsewhere, the European Union has called for an independent evaluation of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU, along with other countries, say it would help "to review experience gained and lessons learned" from the outbreak.

The resolution already has the support of more than half of the WHO's member countries and is set to be discussed this week at the decision-making body of the UN health agency.

The inquiry is intended as a "a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation" of the WHO's efforts to coordinate the international response to the pandemic.

The resolution proposes an independent evaluation be initiated "at the earliest appropriate moment" and should examine "the actions of the WHO and their timelines pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic".

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation. Credit: AP

What is the timeline of the WHO response?

WHO officials announced the coronavirus outbreak was a global health emergency - it's highest level of alert - on January 30.

In the following weeks, the WHO warned countries there was a narrowing "window of opportunity" to prevent the virus from spreading globally.

WHO officials, however, repeatedly described the transmission of the virus as "limited" and said it was not as transmissible as flu - experts have since said Covid-19 spreads even faster.

The WHO declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on March 11.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know: