CANBERRA (Reuters) – China should give access to World Health Organization (WHO) officials investigating the origins of COVID-19 “without delay”, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the head of the WHO said he was “very disappointed” that China had still not authorised the entry of a team of international coronavirus experts.
“We hope that the necessary permissions for the WHO team’s travel to China can be issued without delay,” Payne said.
She reiterated the importance of the WHO-convened scientific study and said: “We look forward to the findings from the international field mission to China”.
The novel coronavirus is believed to have first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. It has since spread globally, infecting more than 86 million people and killing over 1.8 million, Reuters calculations show.
Australia has been a leading voice in calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and, partly because of this, has seen its relations with China sour.
China, Australia’s top trade partner, has since limited beef imports, imposed tariffs on Australian wine and told its millers to stop buying Australian cotton.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Himani Sarkar)