A day after President Trump accused the World Health Organization, WHO of pro-China bias and said he was placing a “very powerful hold” on its funding, a top agency official said Wednesday that the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic is not the time to hit it financially.
“We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding,” Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, told a virtual briefing in response to a question about Trump’s comments, Reuters reported.
During a press conference Tuesday, the president accused the WHO of mishandling the pandemic.
“They called it wrong. They really – they missed the call. And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see,” he said.
But when pressed by reporters, Trump promptly backtracked. “I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but we are going to look at it,” he said. Earlier in the day, Trump slammed the Geneva-based UN organization on Twitter.
“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China-centric. We will be giving that a good look,” he wrote.
In 2019, US contributions to WHO exceeded $400 million, almost double the second-largest member state contribution, according to Reuters.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also defended the agency’s relationship with China, saying its work with Beijing was important to understand the outbreak, which first emerged in Wuhan.
“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” Aylward told reporters.
“This is what we did with every other hard-hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically,” he added.
Aylward also defended the body’s recommendations to keep borders open, saying that Beijing had worked very hard to identify and detect early cases and their contacts, and to ensure they did not travel in order to contain the outbreak.
Meanwhile, Kluge described the outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe as “very concerning” and urged governments to give “very careful consideration” before relaxing measures to control its spread.
“A dramatic rise in cases across the Atlantic skews what remains a very concerning picture in Europe,” he said. “We still have a long way to go in the marathon.”