WHO's annual meeting begins amid tussle over coronavirus

China caves to pressure from WHO various countries to probe COVID-19 outbreak response

President Xi Jinping speaking at the World Health Assembly on Monday. Image WHO AP

China has been critical of world leaders who blame the country for the spread of the virus.

The decision making body of the WHO - the World Health Assembly kicked off a two-day event today, however, for the Chinese president, it was a three-part act created to fix the damage to China's reputation.

It also comes amid growing concerns that the race for the life-saving jabs could form 'a new front for Nationalism' as countries hope to reboot their economies as early as possible. In a classified report sent to the White House more than a month ago, intelligence officials said China's public record of COVID-19 infections was deliberately deceptive and incomplete. Over 4 million people have been infected.

A glimpse of the virtual WHO Assembly in Geneva. Image WHO
A glimpse of the virtual WHO Assembly in Geneva. Image WHO

Nadhum Ali Abdullah, an Iraqi analyst from Baghdad-based think tank Arab Forum, said Xi's speech at the WHA sent a message that "the mankind has a common destiny, and that China is opening its doors to worldwide cooperation to combat this pandemic. China calls on the global community to increase political and financial support for World Health Organization so as to mobilize resources worldwide to defeat the virus", Xi said.

President Donald Trump late Monday threatened to permanently pull United States funding from the World Health Organization if it does not "commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days".

However, Xi said that people across the globe "looked out for each other and pulled together as one".

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China has strenuously denied accusations of a cover up, insisting it has always shared information with the World Health Organization and other countries in a timely manner. "We have shared control and treatment experiences with the world without reservation, we have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need".

Xi also pledged $2 billion to the World Health Organization, to be distributed in the course of two years, and said China will support vaccine research and developments for treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Speaking by video-link, a wide range of country leaders and health ministers hailed the WHO's efforts to coordinate the response, and urged more funding and stronger support for the United Nations agency.

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He said that China, which has poured billions of dollars of investment into the continent in recent years, is helping to build a centers of disease control there using a cooperation mechanism with 30 African hospitals.

"This will be China's contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries", he added.

He also vowed to work with other Group of 20 countries to carry out a debt relief initiative for "the poorest countries".

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Keva Lorraine Bain, chairperson of this year's assembly, said the Taiwan proposal will be considered by the general committee, which will then make a recommendation to the WHA general assembly on whether to include the issue on the agenda when the WHA convenes again later this year.

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