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Donald Trump threatens to permanently stop funding World Health Organisation over Covid-19 response

The move comes after weeks of finger-pointing between the US and China over the pandemic.

Image: Evan Vucci/PA Images

DONALD TRUMP HAS said he is considering permanently cutting US funding from the World Health Organisation over its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a press conference last night, the US president said that unless WHO committed to “substantive improvements over the next 30 days”, he would make a temporary suspension of US funding permanent.

The move comes after weeks of finger-pointing between the US and China over the pandemic, which has killed more than 300,000 people and devastated the global economy.

“They gave us a lot of bad advice, terrible advice,” Trump said of the WHO, threatening to drop funding from $450 million to $40 million.

“They were wrong so much, always on the side of China.”

Later last night, Trump tweeted a letter he had sent to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in which the president said “the only way forward” was if WHO “can actually demonstrate independence from China”.

WHO has bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent investigation into its management of the international response to the coronavirus.

The “comprehensive evaluation” sought by a coalition of African, European and other countries, is intended to review the lessons learned from WHO’s coordination of the global response to Covid-19.

But it will stop short of examining contentious issues such as the origins of the new coronavirus.

Tweet by @Simon Harris TD Source: Simon Harris TD/Twitter

Annual assembly overshadowed

Trump has claimed that he has proof suggesting the coronavirus originated in a lab in China, while the scientific community has insisted all evidence to date shows the virus likely jumped into humans from animals.

WHO’s normally bureaucratic annual assembly this week has been overshadowed by mutual recriminations and political sniping between the US and China.

Trump has repeatedly attacked WHO, claiming it helped China conceal the extent of the coronavirus pandemic in its early stages.

Tedros said he would launch an independent evaluation of WHO’s response “at the earliest appropriate moment” — alluding to findings published on Monday in a first report by an oversight advisory body commissioned to look into WHO’s response.

The 11-page report raised questions such as whether WHO’s warning system for alerting the world to outbreaks is adequate, and suggested member states might need to “reassess” WHO’s role in providing travel advice to countries.

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In his opening remarks at the WHO meeting, Tedros held firm and sought to focus on the bigger troubles posed by the outbreak, saying “we have been humbled by this very small microbe”.

“This contagion exposes the fault lines, inequalities, injustices and contradictions of our modern world,” Tedros said. “And geopolitical divisions have been thrown into sharp relief.”

China, meanwhile, sought to divert attention to its renewed efforts to slow the coronavirus pandemic, with Mr Xi Jinping announcing a €1.83 billion outlay over two years to fight it. Last year, China donated some €79 million to the WHO.

Other world leaders including the presidents of France, South Korea and South Africa and Germany’s chancellor also threw their support to the WHO.

The European Union and others staked out a middle ground.

Xi has said China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to Covid-19 and that it should be “based on science and professionalism led by WHO, and conducted in an objective and impartial manner”.

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