WASHINGTON, D.C. —President Trump said he would halt funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic while his administration reviews its response to the global crisis on Tuesday.
Trump told a White House news conference the WHO had “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable”, adding that the group had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak than otherwise would have occurred.
The news came as an influential coronavirus model cited by the White House, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, predicted the pandemic will “peter out” in May, but experts are wary about its assumption that there will be no resurgence of the virus in the summer months.
The move drew condemnations and questions including from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said yesterday it was “not the time” to make such a move.
“Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” Guterres said.
The United States is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15 percent of its budget. The other top donors include the United Nations, Republic of Korea, Australia, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Japan and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, which was founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The top funding source for the eighth biggest donor is the National Philanthropic Trust, whose primary donor is also the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Trump has been increasingly critical of the organization as the global health crisis has continued.
American Medical Association President Dr. Patrice Harris called it, “a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier,” she said, referring to the respiratory disease caused by the virus. She urged Trump to reconsider.
On Tuesday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams retweeted a post from Dr. Linda Girgis, who said she’s, “still seeing 3-5 new COVID-19 positive patients every day.
“However, I’m now seeing more patients who have recovered and are looking for notes to return to work. There is hope!”
Adams has said his department is carefully reviewing the data and is looking at each scenario individually to decide when to potentially reopen parts of the United States economy, and has lessened its reliance on projection models.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the “Today” show that different parts of the country are facing different situations regarding the impact of the virus.
“This pandemic has affected different parts of the country differently,” Redfield said. “We’re looking at the data very carefully, county by county by county, and we will be assessing that.”
Death toll tops 25,700 on Tuesday
The U.S. death toll attributed to COVID-19 topped 25,700 out of more than 600,000 known U.S. infections, according to a Reuters tally.
Trump said Washington would discuss with global health partners what it will do with the millions of dollars that would normally go to the WHO, and also said that the United States would continue to engage with it.