The passage of a global coronavirus inquiry has been hailed by the Australian government as a “landmark resolution” which will help prevent another pandemic.
Health Minister Greg Hunt expressed his delight following the World Health Organisation’s adoption of a resolution calling for an independent probe into the origins of the virus.
China made a last-minute decision to support the motion which passed without objection at the World Health Assembly in Geneva late Tuesday night (Australian time).
But it has accused the Morrison government of “political manoeuvring” by calling for the inquiry.
Delighted that the WHA Assembly has passed by consensus the Motion calling for an impartial, independent & comprehensive examination of the global response to COVID-19.
The support of 137 co sponsors further strengthens this as a key step to protect against future pandemics.
— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) May 19, 2020
Mr Hunt and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne released a statement saying authorities will finally be able to identify the source of the virus and understand how it transmitted from animals to humans.
“There is also a clear mandate to identify the source of the COVID-19 virus and how it was transmitted to humans, which will be necessary to prevent and reduce the risks of the emergence of new diseases that pass from animals to humans,” the joint statement said.
“Australia has been clear and transparent in calling for an independent review into COVID-19, which is an unprecedented global health and economic crisis.”
The US and Australia had been leading calls for the probe, a move which angered Beijing and led to an ongoing diplomatic row.
On Tuesday, senior Coalition figures were claiming support from other leaders at the WHA vindicated the government’s stance, prompting a scathing response from the Chinese embassy.
“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 said.
“To claim the WHA’s resolution a vindication of Australia’s call is nothing but a joke.”
Although China had strongly opposed Australia’s calls for an independent global inquiry, its president ultimately agreed to co-sponsor the resolution.
National death toll reaches grim milestone
Three Melbourne aged-care homes are in lockdown after a resident at each centre tested positive for coronavirus. Another facility has also been locked down as it awaits test results for two residents.
A resident at Lynden Aged Care at Camberwell was diagnosed with the virus while being treated at a metropolitan hospital, prompting the facility to shut its doors to visitors on Tuesday.
A 93-year-old woman from Sydney’s Newmarch House has become the 17th virus-linked death at the NSW aged-care facility.
Australia has now recorded about 7068 cases, with 557 remaining active.
The national death toll is 100 – with NSW 49, Victoria 18, Tasmania 13, Western Australia nine, Queensland six, South Australia four, ACT three. (Two Queensland residents who died in NSW have been included in both state’s counts).
Travel will soon be back on the table
Regional travel in New South Wales will be allowed for any reason, including holidays, from June 1.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had been cautious on lifting travel restrictions despite introducing more relaxed measures elsewhere last week.
The government’s announcement follows the relaxation of some restrictions from last Friday, including the permitting of up to 10 customers dining in cafes, restaurants and pubs.
Health authorities in NSW on Tuesday confirmed two new coronavirus infections – both from people who had recently returned from overseas and were in quarantine hotels.
Back to school
NSW public school students will return to full-time classes on May 25.
A staged return to school classrooms has begun in Queensland.
In Victoria prep, grades one, two, 11 and 12 students return to their classrooms on May 26 with the rest returning from June 9.
WA reinstated compulsory school attendance from May 18. Tasmanian schools will start reopening from May 25.
In economic news, Victorian universities will receive a $350 million boost to help them recover from the pandemic.