April 15 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump has instructed his administration to temporarily halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump said the WHO “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable.” He said it promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak.
The United States is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.
* AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
Dr. Patrice Harris called it “a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier” and urged Trump to reconsider.
* UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES
“Not the time” to reduce resources for WHO operations.
“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.
* JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY
“The move sends the wrong message during the middle of a pandemic, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the center.
Adalja said the WHO does make mistakes, as it did in delaying the response to the Ebola outbreak in 2013 and 2014 in West Africa. He said reforms may be needed, but that work needs to take place after the pandemic has passed.
“It’s not the middle of a pandemic that you do this type of thing,” he said.
Adalja said the WHO collects information about where the virus is active in every county in the world, which the United States needs to help guide decisions about when to open borders.
* U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
Directed requests for comment to the White House.
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“This is nothing more than a transparent attempt by President Trump to distract from his history downplaying the severity of the coronavirus crisis and his administration’s failure to prepare our nation,” said Chair Leslie Dach, who served as the global Ebola coordinator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“To be sure, the World Health Organization is not without fault but it is beyond irresponsible to cut its funding at the height of a global pandemic. This move will undoubtedly make Americans less safe.”
* VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER
“This virus doesn’t need passports. In a few short months it has traveled to all of the continents of the world except Antarctica. If there were ever an event that showed us how we need to work tougher as a global community, this is it,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease experts.
Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Stephen Coates
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