A coalition of 62 countries has backed Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus, with the ultimate goal of countering another pandemic.
In a carefully worded draft resolution which does not single out China, the countries call for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of “the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19”.
The motion also avoids mention of wet markets but calls for an investigation into how the coronavirus spread from animals to humans.
All 27 EU member states as well as India, Japan, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Russia among others, have co-sponsored the motion ahead of a World Health Assembly meeting on Monday.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said it was crucial to review the events of earlier this year to avoid a repeat.
“There is positive support for an independent review into the pandemic to help the world learn the lessons necessary to protect global health,” she said in a statement.
“This is about collaborating to equip the international community to better prevent or counter the next pandemic and keep our citizens safe.”
Backing for the motion comes amid worsening relations between Australia and China after Trade Minister Simon Birmingham suggested local businesses would probably start looking elsewhere to sell their products.
The minister also told ABC television on Sunday he had tried to contact his Chinese counterpart by phone to try and soothe the growing rift, but he was yet to receive a return call.
Last week, China blocked beef imports from four Australian abattoirs and threatened to impose an 80 per cent import tariff on barley, which is worth on average about $1.5 billion.
A small jump in local cases
Few new coronavirus cases were recorded across the country on Sunday as Australians embraced their new-found freedom with eased restrictions.
Victoria, which has been more cautious than other states in handling the crisis, has set out its staged plan to allow people to eat and drink inside restaurants, cafes and pubs again from the start of June.
Victoria recorded another seven COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, two linked to existing outbreaks, three found in hotel quarantine while another two are still being investigated.
One of the cases was a McDonald’s delivery driver who is believed to have interacted with “a small number” of employees at 12 Victorian stores.
Those outlets will remain closed for deep-cleaning and staff have been advised to get tested.
Dominoes Pizza in Fairfield has also been shut after a person with coronavirus visited the shop, as will a gaming facility in Deer Park where the same person visited.
“Potential close contacts and employees who have worked specific shifts during and after the truck driver’s delivery have been instructed not to return to work for 14 days and advised to be tested,” the Department of Health said in a statement.
— Mark Santomartino (@msanto92) May 17, 2020
Meanwhile Cedar Meats, an abattoir at the centre of a major coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne’s west, is due to reopen its cold storage facility on Monday.
Between 15 to 20 staff cleared by the health department will return to work, and have staggered breaks after the factory was deep cleaned.
In Queensland, residents of the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre aged care facility have been evacuated in a bid to stop a possible outbreak of coronavirus after a nurse tested positive on Thursday.
Thirty-five of the facility’s less-frail residents were moved to nearby hospitals on Saturday to create more space for the remaining occupants to isolate.
NSW recorded just one new case, but state Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he had noted many people at cafes and restaurants did not appear to be observing that 1.5 metres social distancing rule.
The number of cases in Australia stands at 7058 with the death toll from the pandemic remaining at 98.
The national death toll remains at 98 – NSW 47, Victoria 18, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 6, SA 4 and ACT 3. (Two Queensland residents who died in NSW have been included in both state’s counts).
Australia has now tested more than one million people for COVID-19.
Newspoll shows Morrison leading as preferred PM
Meanwhile, latest Newspoll results show Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has kept his personal approval rating near a record high.
Mr Morrison’s approval rating dipped two points to 66 per cent, but he leads Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese 56-29 per cent as preferred prime minister.
The coalition’s primary vote also benefited from the government’s handling of the health and economic crisis, despite huge job losses.
It lifted two-points to 43 per cent after winning over voters from Labor, the Greens and One Nation, according to the poll published in The Australian.
Labor’s primary vote slid one point to 35 per cent, while the Greens fell two points to 10 per cent, and One Nation dipped one point to three per cent.
The coalition lead Labor 51-49 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.