US President Donald Trump has announced the United States will be terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization, saying it had failed to adequately respond to the coronavirus because China has “total control” over it.
He said the Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the health organisation to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization,” Trump told reporters on Friday.
He said the US contributes about $450m to the WHO while China provides about $40m, adding that the US will be “redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs”.
“China’s cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world,” Trump said.
On May 18, the US president sent WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus a letter, listing what he said were examples of the WHO’s shortcomings in managing the pandemic, including ignoring early reports of the emergence of the virus.
He accused the United Nations body of caving in to Chinese pressure by declining to declare coronavirus a global health emergency in the initial days of the outbreak.
Trump went on to criticise the WHO for praising China’s “transparency”, despite reports that Beijing had punished several doctors in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, for speaking out about the viral infection in late December.
The US leader also threatened to halt funding from the body’s top donor altogether if it does not commit to reforms within 30 days.
The WHO bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the pandemic.
The probe is expected to shed light on the origins of the virus and China’s early handling of the outbreak.
Earlier on Friday, the WHO and nearly three dozen countries led by Costa Rica launched a global initiative allowing for the sharing of data and scientific knowledge in the fight against COVID-19.
Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado outlined a worldwide “technology repository” for vaccines, medicines and diagnostics, seeking to boost solidarity and urging more countries to join the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool.
The collective effort offers a platform to “share openly on a voluntary basis and in a collaborative way the data and the intellectual property that will be generated throughout the world in order to make this a public global good,” he said.
While the push by mostly developing nations won praise from groups including Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF), a drug industry alliance questioned whether the effort to pool intellectual property would really broaden access to medicines.
On Wednesday, Tedros announced the creation of the WHO Foundation, which will enable WHO to tap new sources of funding, including the general public.
The foundation is being created as an independent grant-making entity that will support the organisation’s efforts to address the most pressing global health challenges by raising new funds from “non-traditional sources”.
Tedros said the UN body’s annual budget of about $2.3bn was “very, very small” for a global agency, close to that of a medium-sized hospital in the developed world.
The WHO chief said the creation of the WHO Foundation had nothing to do with the “recent funding issues”.