After teasing the possibility last week, President Trump has announced the U.S. will immediately halt all funding to the World Health Organization.
Fox News reports President Trump announced at the White House coronavirus press briefing in the Rose Garden on Tuesday that the United States will immediately halt all funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), saying it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.”
Also at the briefing, the president said plans to ease the national economic shutdown were being finalized, and that he would be “authorizing governors to reopen their states to reopen as they see fit.” At the same time, Trump made clear that he was not going to put “any pressure” on governors to reopen.
Trump read a long list of names of people in business, health care and sports who will advise him on how to restart the economy. “We have to get our sports back,” Trump remarked. “I’m tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old.”
In the meantime, Trump declared that the United States would undertake a 60-to-90 day investigation into why the “China-centric” WHO had caused “so much death” by “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus’ spread, including by making the “disastrous” decision to oppose travel restrictions on China.
The United States is the WHO’s largest single donor, and the State Department had previously planned to provide the agency $893 million in the current two-year funding period. Trump said the United States contributes roughly $400 to $500 million per year to WHO, while China offers only about $40 million.
“We have deep concerns over whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said, accusing the WHO of failing to adequately keep the international community apprised of the threat of the coronavirus.
“The WHO failed in this duty, and must be held accountable,” Trump said. He added that the WHO had ignored “credible information” in December 2019 that the virus could be transmitted from human to human.
As early as late December, Wuhan medical staff were suspected to have contracted the disease, indicating likely human-to-human transmissibility.
On January 4, in a statement first flagged by The National Review, the head University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection warned that “the city should implement the strictest possible monitoring system for a mystery new viral pneumonia that has infected dozens of people on the mainland, as it is highly possible that the illness is spreading from human to human.”
The Chinese government also began suppressing news about the virus, and even detained Doctor Li Wenliang, who has since died of coronavirus after trying to warn the international community of the threat. Nevertheless, on January 8, the WHO declared: “Preliminary identification of a novel virus in a short period of time is a notable achievement and demonstrates China’s increased capacity to manage new outbreaks.”
Again on January 14, the WHO simply echoed Chinese government statements: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in Wuhan, China.”
By January 19, the WHO had changed its tune somewhat, but still hedged. “Not enough is known to draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted, the clinical features of the disease, the extent to which it has spread, or its source, which remains unknown.”