United States President Donald Trump on Friday said his country would terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization, after weeks of accusing the agency of helping the Chinese government cover up the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian reported.

This came after Trump gave the world health body an ultimatum of 30 days to make “substantive improvements” after which, he said he would permanently freeze funding to it. The US is the largest sponsor of the agency. The country had contributed $400 million (approximately Rs 3,040 crore) to the organisation last year – nearly 15% of its entire budget.

“The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” Trump said in a speech in the White House Rose Garden. “Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe.”

He accused the WHO of refusing to act on the reforms requested by the United States.“We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” he said.

Trump also announced that his administration would “begin the process” of ending the American government’s special relationship with Hong Kong, including on trade and law enforcement, as part of the country’s efforts to retaliate against China, AFP reported. He further issued an order to ban graduate students from US universities who are connected to China’s military.

The president said he would begin stripping away Hong Kong’s privileges with the United States, including an extradition treaty and commercial relations, with few exceptions, according to The New York Times. He said that Hong Kong would be subject to export controls that prevent China from gaining access to certain types of advanced technology, but he did not specify whether the tariffs that apply to imports from the mainland would be expanded to Hong Kong.

In his ten-minute address, Trump fumed against China’s “malfeasance” and denounced the country’s trade and security practices, its crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong, as well as its influence at the WHO. Trump’s announcement came largely in response to Beijing’s move this week to put in place broad new national security powers over Hong Kong. The president said the new security law for Hong Kong “extends the reach of China’s invasive state security apparatus into what was formerly a bastion of liberty”.

The Covid-19 outbreak was first detected in central China’s Wuhan city late last year. However, there is no evidence that the WHO or Beijing hid the extent of the epidemic in China, and experts generally view Trump’s charges as a way to deflect attention from his administration’s inadequacy in responding to the virus’s spread in the United States.

United States on Friday recorded 1,225 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, bring the toll in the country to 1.02 lakh, with 17.45 lakh overall cases of the virus.

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 called his claims “speculative”, saying they had not received any concrete evidence from the United States.