Donald Trump slammed for halting funding to WHO
President says WHO promoted China's 'disinformation', failed to probe reports from sources there over virus
WASHINGTON/SYDNEY: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday halted funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting criticism from other countries and medical experts as the global death toll mounted.
Mr Trump, who has reacted angrily to attacks on his administration's response to the worst epidemic in a century, has become increasingly hostile towards the WHO.
The WHO had promoted China's "disinformation" about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak than otherwise would have occurred, Mr Trump said.
It had failed to investigate credible reports from sources in China's Hubei province, where the virus was first identified, that conflicted with Beijing's accounts about the spread and "parroted and publicly endorsed" the idea that human to human transmission was not happening, Mr Trump said.
"The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable," he told a White House news conference on Tuesday.
There was no immediate reaction from the WHO.
Nearly two million people globally have been infected and more than 124,000 have died since the disease emerged in China late last year, according to a Reuters tally.
China said yesterday it was "seriously concerned" about the US decision to suspend funding for the WHO, and urged Washington to fulfil its obligations during the crisis.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing: "The global situation is grim.
"It is at a critical moment. This US decision will weaken WHO's capacities and undermine the international cooperation against the epidemic."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also said it was not the time to reduce resources for the WHO.
"Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences," he said in a statement.
The US is the biggest overall donor to the WHO, contributing more than US$400 million (S$570 million) last year, roughly 15 per cent of its budget.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the WHO was essential to tackling the pandemic. "At a time like this when we need to be sharing information and we need to have advice we can rely on, the WHO has provided that," she said.
"We will continue to support it and continue to make our contributions."
Mr John Sawers, the former head of Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service, said China concealed crucial information about the outbreak from the rest of the world and it would be better to hold China responsible, rather than the WHO.
More than 2,200 people died in the US on Tuesday, a record toll according to a Reuters tally, even as it debated how to reopen its economy.
New York City revised its death toll sharply up to more than 10,000, to include victims presumed to have died of the lung disease but never tested. - REUTERS, AFP