United States president Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw financial support for the World Health Organization. While talking to the press on April 7, Tuesday, the president complained about the United Nations agency being “China-centric” and effectively accused it of covering for China. This is the latest accusation directed against China by the US government that has been consistently blaming the country for the outbreak.
During a press brief held earlier yesterday, the president raised questions about why the WHO did not warn other countries, including the US, months in advance, asserting that they should have known. He also criticized the WHO for supporting only targeted travel bans in early stages, largely due to concerns of economic damage it could have done.
The president claimed that “They seem to come down on the side of China… ‘Don’t close your borders to China,’ they don’t report what’s really going on. They didn’t see it, and yet they were there, they didn’t see what was going on in Wuhan.”
In an earlier press brief the same day, the president even stated that the government was withholding all funds to the WHO, a statement he later backtracked from in another brief, stating that the administration is “looking into” the option. The US contributed close to 15% of the WHO’s budget for 2018-2019 financial cycle, and nearly 22% of the assessed voluntary contribution.
The WHO has been among the foremost agencies in the world coordinating global attempts to contain and fight the virus. It was first informed by the Chinese authorities about an outbreak of severe pneumonia cases in Wuhan and elsewhere in China, on December 30. The WHO worked with Chinese authorities in investigating the cause of the outbreak, and the then unknown virus behind it.
The novel coronavirus was discovered by Chinese authorities on January 8, by which time the WHO had kept its emergency machinery ready in case it was deemed necessary. On January 10, WHO released travel advisories and put its regional and global machinery into action to contain the spread. On that day, the number of confirmed cases in China stood at 41 and 739 were quarantined.