A thorough probe into the origins of the coronavirus is necessary to avoid a repeat in future and is not a bid to pin blame on anyone, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.
Mr Morrison joined G7 leaders to discuss health issues on Saturday in the UK coastal resort of Carbis Bay, with talks focused on the recovery from the pandemic and how the world can be better prepared for an outbreak of other diseases.
The G7 group of wealthy democracies – the UK, United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – have invited the leaders of Australia, South Korea, South Africa and India to take part in the three-day summit in Cornwall this year.
The Australian government’s strong support on the international stage for an investigation into how COVID-19 emerged has angered officials in Beijing and further damaged strained relations with China, where the World Health Organisation says the virus was first detected in late 2019.
“The purpose of these inquiries is to understand – it’s got nothing to do with politics or blame or anything else – it is about understanding it,” Mr Morrison said on Saturday.
“So we all, on a future occasion should it occur, can move quickly and can respond and avoid… the absolute carnage that we’ve seen from this pandemic to both lives and livelihoods all around the world.”
UK government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Melinda Gates, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were expected to present the G7 leaders with an outline of how treatments, tests and vaccines could be developed within a 100 days of a new disease being detected.
“It’s important we have an early warning system, that we have a way to being able to alert the world to when these types of viruses originate and so we can move quickly to stem any transmission,” Mr Morrison said ahead of the session.
More investigations and reforms were necessary to fight potential future pandemics, he said.
“The process we called for is not yet done… It is recommending that there be further powers for WHO officers to be able to identify these things early and to ensure that that information is reliably passed on in a timely way.”
G7 host UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie formally welcomed Mr Morrison to summit on Saturday afternoon, greeting each other with elbow and lower arm taps.
Mr Morrison also held talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and was expected to speak with US President Joe Biden later in the day.