President Donald Trump assailed the World Health Organization (WHO) over its response to the coronavirus pandemic in a tweet last night, prompting the organization to defend itself against his claim.
“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on,” he wrote. “Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020
The president’s tweet was a reference to a statement WHO issued on February 3 saying there was no need for widespread travel restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, who serves as senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, soon pushed back, saying 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.”
“This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically,” he continued.
Dr. Aylward also defended WHO’s earlier recommendation to keep borders open, noting that China had worked hard to identify cases and their contacts to ensure they would not travel outside Hubei province.
Asked about Trump’s remarks, Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said, “We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding.”
Reuters pointed out that U.S. contributions to WHO in 2019 “exceeded $400 million, almost double the 2nd largest member state contribution. China, in contrast, contributed $44 million.”