United States President Donald Trump on Monday said that he will permanently freeze funding to the World Health Organization if “substantive improvements” were not made in the next 30 days. Trump made the remarks in a letter to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accusing the global agency of taking China’s side during the coronavirus pandemic.
The remarks come a day after Trump called the WHO a “puppet of China”. On April 15, the US had halted its share of funding to the global agency, accusing it of mismanaging the Covid-19 pandemic. However, last week, Trump had reportedly said that his administration will restore partial funding to the WHO.
“If the WHO does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership in the organisation,” Trump wrote.
In his letter, Trump said that the WHO consistently ignored credible reports of the spread of the virus in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even before that. “The WHO failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself,” he said.
The US president added that the Taiwanese authorities had informed the WHO about human-to-human transmission of a new virus. “Yet the World Health Organization chose not to share any of this critical information with the rest of the world, probably for political reasons,” Trump wrote.
Trump claimed that on January 21 China’s President Xi Jinping pressured the global agency to not declare the outbreak an emergency, adding that WHO followed the directive. However, on January 30, when WHO declared Covid-19 to be a public health emergency, it failed to press China for the timely admittance of a team of international medical experts.
The American president said this caused a delay due to which the team arrived in China only on February 16 and were not allowed to visit Wuhan until the final days of their visit. He claimed that the world body was silent when China closed access to Wuhan for the two American members of the team.
Trump said that by the time the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, Covid-19 had killed more than 4,000 people and infected over one lakh people in at least 114 countries.
In his letter, Trump also attacked the WHO director general and claimed that more progress was seen under the direction of another head of the world body. He gave the example of the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in China in 2003. “[Former] Director-General of WHO Harlem Brundtland had declared the organisation’s first emergency travel advisory in 55 years, recommending against travel to and from the disease epicenter in southern China,” Trump said. “She also did not hesitate to criticise China for endangering global health by attempting to cover up the outbreak through its usual playbook of arresting whistleblowers and censoring media.”
Trump said that Ghebreyesus’ and the WHO’s “repeated missteps” in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. “The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” he wrote.
The Covid-19 outbreak was first detected in central China’s Wuhan city late last year. Earlier this month, Trump had threatened China with new tariffs claiming that he had seen evidence linking a Wuhan lab to the Covid-19 infection. However, WHO had termed his claims as ‘speculative’ and said they had not received any evidence from the United States.