US President Donald Trump continued to feud with the World Health Organization, accusing it of initially minimising the coronavirus outbreak and then siding with China in its response.
He also hit back on Wednesday at WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who earlier accused Trump of politicising the pandemic, a move he said would lead to “many more body bags”.
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“They said more body bags … He [Tedros] would have been much better serving the people he’s supposed to serve if they gave a correct analysis. Everything was China-centric: ‘Everything is going to be fine, no human-to-human [transmission],'” said Trump.
“He wanted me to keep the borders open. I closed the border to spite him, it was a hard decision to make at the time. We made a decision against the World Health Organization.”
Trump noted China provides the WHO with more than $40m in funding, while the United States gives well above $400m.
“Yet, everything seems to be China’s way. That’s not right, that’s not fair to us, and honestly, it’s not fair to the world. I can’t believe he’s talking about politics, look at the relationship they have with China,” Trump added.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters the US is re-evaluating its funding to the WHO. “Organisations have to work. They have to deliver the outcomes for which they’re intended,” he said.
‘Many body bags’
WHO chief Tedros said now is not the time for such threats as more than 88,500 people have died worldwide with 1.5 million confirmed infections.
“The focus of all political parties should be to save their people. Please don’t politicise this virus,” Tedros said at a press briefing in Geneva, addressing politicians and world leaders.
“If you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicising it … We will have many body bags in front of us if we don’t behave.”
Tedros noted Thursday marks 100 days since China first notified the organisation of cases of “pneumonia with unknown cause” on December 31.
Tedros, a former foreign minister of Ethiopia, also rejected Trump’s suggestion the WHO was “China-centric”, saying: “We are close to every nation, we are colour-blind.”
WHO regime change?
In his comments at the daily White House taskforce briefing, Pompeo was stopped short when asked about changing the leadership of the body, something US politicians have raised in previous days.
“This is not the time to be doing that kind of change,” he said.
Pompeo said it was necessary to have “really good data” from all countries, including China, and for them to be “transparent … upfront” and allow information to “flow freely”.
In New York, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was not the time to assess the global response to the pandemic, calling instead for the international community to focus on working in solidarity to stop the virus.
The UN Security Council will convene later on Thursday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the response.
Tedros said China and the US should follow the example of the former Soviet Union and the US, which launched a 10-year global campaign in 1967 that eradicated smallpox, a disease then killing two million people annually.