US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he has terminated Washington’s relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO), accusing the United Nations agency of bowing to pressure from China and allowing the Covid-19 pandemic to spread out of control.
“We have detailed the reforms that [the WHO] must make and engage with them directly, but they have refused to act,” Trump said in a White House press briefing.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organisation and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.”
Trump reiterated his assertion that China covered up the virulence of the coronavirus that first emerged in Wuhan, a major city with international air transport links, and that authorities there allowed international flights to depart after they imposed a strict lockdown on January 23.
“China’s cover up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has caused more than 100,000 American lives, and over a million lives worldwide,” he said. “Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organisation and pressured the World Health Organisation to mislead the world.”
“Why is it that China shut off infected people from Wuhan to all other parts of China?” he added. “It didn’t go to Beijing ... but they allowed them to freely travel throughout the world, including Europe and the United States.
“The death and destruction caused by this is incalculable.”
FactCheck.org, a consumer advocacy project run by the University of Pennsylvania, reported on May 5 that flight records show that China blocked international commercial flights out of Wuhan after January 23. The group analysed data provided by Flightradar24, a global flight tracking service, to reach its conclusion.
But flights from other parts of China continued.
As late as January 31, WHO representatives were advising countries to keep their borders open even as the virus spread. That same day the Trump administration announced restrictions on travellers from China.
The New York Times reported that nearly 40,000 people arrived in the US on direct flights from China after Trump announced his travel restrictions, and that screening protocols of travellers from China were spotty.
Trump has repeatedly blamed the pandemic on China and its influence over the WHO since announcing in April that he was putting a hold on WHO funding, pending a review of up to 90 days.
The WHO receives about 20 per cent of its funding from “assessed contributions” from individual member nations based on their gross domestic product and population, with the rest from voluntary contributions.
The US is the largest contributor, contributing about 15 per cent of the combined total – US$893 million last year, according to the WHO’s own figures – followed by Britain and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the 2018-19 financial period, the WHO’s target was to raise US$44.4 billion in funding. Of that, China contributed about US$76 million in assessed contributions and just over US$10 million in voluntary contributions.
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This article Donald Trump says the US is ‘terminating’ its relationship with the World Health Organisation first appeared on South China Morning Post