US President Donald Trump has announced that he is halting funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over the agency's "role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus"
While speaking during his nightly press conference from the White House, the US President said that he was instructing his administration to halt the WHO funding while "a review is conducted".
"As the organisation's leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability. One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations," he said, as reported by NPR.
The US is the worst-affected country in the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 614,000 cases and 26,000 deaths. It is also the WHO's biggest funder with over USD400 million (RM1.75 billion) per year.
The US' funds to the WHO totals under 15% of the group's total budget of USD4.8 billion.
According to BBC, China's contribution to the WHO in 2018-19 was almost USD76 million in assessed contributions and about USD10 million in voluntary funding.
Cutting off funds to the group will be a major blow to the organisation as it conducts vaccine trials, distributes test kits, and advises governments around the world, Politico reported.
Trump said the review would take 60 to 90 days
"The WHO failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable," the US President said.
According to reports, Trump has alleged the WHO of covering up the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak in China before the coronavirus spread to over 200 countries and territories around the world.
The US President, who has been on the back foot following criticism over his handling of the pandemic, has continuously accused the United Nations (UN) health body of siding with the Chinese government.
CNN reported that amidst questions about whether Trump downplayed the crisis or ignored early warnings in January, he has sought to assign blame elsewhere, including at WHO and in the US news media.
According to Trump, the WHO prevented transparency over the outbreak and the United States will now "discuss what we do with all that money" that goes to the UN health body.
"With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have deep concerns whether America's generosity has been put to the best use possible. Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death," he said during the press conference.
"This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage. Instead, the WHO willingly took China's assurances at face value... and defended the actions of the Chinese government."
Trump's latest stand contradicts his own praise when he congratulated the Chinese government's response to the COVID-19 crisis
While the WHO's response to the pandemic has not been perfect, public health officials generally agree that the group has done a lot better than how the US itself has handled the COVID-19 crisis
Detailing how the WHO has handled the pandemic, The Guardian reported that the group first raised the alert over the Wuhan outbreak on 5 January, and beginning on 7 January it was briefing public health officials from the US and other national governments on the outbreak in regular teleconference calls.
Below is an excerpt from The Guardian's article:
On 9 January, the WHO distributed guidance to member states for their own risk assessment and planning.
On 10 and 11 January, its officials told their counterparts about human-to-human transmission being a strong possibility given the experience of past coronavirus epidemics and urged suitable precautions.
On 23 January, the WHO updated its account of the coronavirus threat, confirming human-to-human transmission and warning that the global risk was high. A week later, it declared a global emergency.
By early February, when the WHO was in a position to distribute a COVID-19 test worldwide, the US government opted not to have it fast-tracked through approval and instead produced its own test.
However, the test produced by the US turned out to be flawed and had to be recalled. The actions caused US testing to be set back more than six weeks compared to the rest of the world.
Trump then took his country's low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, which was due to virtually no testing being done throughout February, to boast about his administration doing a good job in keeping the coronavirus in control, nearly a month after the WHO had declared it an emergency.
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department announced it had sent USD300 million in funds stolen in the 1MDB corruption scandal back:
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