Australia is calling for an international investigation into China’s handling of the coronavirus and its origins, an official told ABC News Australia on Sunday.
Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister, said that her concern about China’s transparency has reached “a very high point,” Reuters reported. Experts believe that the coronavirus originated in a wet market where exotic animals are eaten in Wuhan, China. The deadly virus has infected more than 2.4 million people around the world and has caused more than 168,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins’ latest tracking data.
“The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that,” Payne said. “In fact, Australia will absolutely insist on that.”
Payne didn’t specify who would conduct the investigation, but noted that similar situations have happened to investigate egregious human rights violations and that such specifics would be agreed upon by several countries. However, she added that Australia has similar concerns regarding the World Health Organization’s connection to China, adding that the World Health Organization would not be sufficiently independent to conduct an investigation.
Australia has managed to control the epidemic within its borders before the public system could become overstrained. On Sunday, there were only 53 new cases. Australia has a little more than 6,500 cases and 67 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.
U.S. officials believe the World Health Organization is responsible for disseminating Chinese propaganda at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, which led to the virus’ spread, which could have been managed better had there been more transparency about it.
In January, the World Health Organization reported there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus. That report was based on data the organization received from China, who has frequently disseminated lies or misleading information regarding the virus.
Additionally, China has attempted to re-establish control of the narrative surrounding the coronavirus. China has gone as far as to spread the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was actually created by the United States.
China has also released videos promoting the conspiracy theory to a Middle Eastern audience. In one video published by the Chinese state-owned China Global TV Network’s Arabic channel, a woman who goes by the name “Ms. V” is seen speaking in Arabic and spreading disinformation about the origin of the coronavirus, blaming it on the United States.
Payne told ABC News Australia that she believes there is good evidence that the virus originated in the wet markets of Wuhan.
Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated amid the coronavirus pandemic, with China also being accused of meddling in domestic affairs and being concerned about Australia’s growing concerns over China’s influence in the Pacific region.
“My trust in China is predicated in the long-term,” Payne said. “My concern is around transparency and ensuring that we are able to engage openly.”