President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, April 7, 2020.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
The WHO responded Wednesday to President Donald Trump’s threat to cut its funding, saying the move would not be appropriate during the global coronavirus pandemic.
“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 regional director for Europe, told a virtual briefing, according to Reuters.
A day earlier, Trump threatened to withhold funding from the United Nations’ health agency, claiming it got “every aspect” of the coronavirus pandemic wrong.
“With regard to us, they’re taking a lot of heat because they didn’t want the borders closed, they called it wrong,” Trump said at his daily briefing. “They really called, I would say, every aspect of it wrong.”
As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 400,000, according to figures provided by NBC, with 12,864 fatalities nationwide.
It’s uncertain how the U.S. would withhold funding. Congress has already authorized $122 million for the WHO for this fiscal year, and while Trump has proposed only $58 million of funding in fiscal year 2021, Congress is unlikely to authorize such a drastic funding cut, especially in the the middle of the pandemic.
The president also criticized the WHO’s initial response to the outbreak, which originated in Wuhan in China in late 2019, and the time it took to declare the outbreak a global pandemic, on March 11.
“Take a look, go through step by step. They said there’s no big deal, there’s no big problem. There’s no nothing, and then ultimately when I closed it down, they said I made a mistake in closing it down and it turned out to be right,” Trump said.
The WHO declared a global health emergency on Jan. 30, nearly a month before Trump tweeted that “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
Before his White House news conference, Trump lambasted the WHO on Twitter, calling it “China centric.”
Another official at the WHO rejected that criticism.
“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,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to the WHO director-general, said at the virtual briefing Wednesday, Reuters reported.
“This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically.”