US President Donald Trump accused the World Health Organization (WHO) Wednesday of minimizing the threat of the novel coronavirus, saying the health body “got it wrong” on the spread of the pandemic.
The WHO “got it wrong. In many ways, they were wrong. They also minimized the threat very strongly. Not good,” Trump told reporters at a White House coronavirus task force briefing.
He said the US pays hundreds of millions of dollars every year to the largest health organization and it was $452 million in 2019 while China paid $42 million, calling it “not fair at all.”
“I think they have to get their priorities right, and their priorities are that every country has to be treated properly. And it does not seem that way, does it?” said Trump.
“So we’re going to do [a] study, investigation and we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re doing,” he said. “In the meantime, we are holding back.”
On Tuesday, Trump criticized the organization for being “China-centric” and said the UN agency criticized him for suspending flights from China.
The US is the largest contributor to the WHO’s budget.
Amid the backlash from the US president, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres threw his support behind the health agency, saying the WHO is on the front lines helping UN members and societies fight the COVID-19 pandemic with “concrete” services.
“It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19,” he said.
Trump ignited a firestorm when he tweeted Tuesday that “the WHO 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?”
The WHO hit back at the criticism and called on the U.S. and China to come together to fight the novel coronavirus.
“We are asking to quarantine politicizing COVID-19,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a video press conference Wednesday, asserting that politicians should focus on saving lives.
As of Wednesday evening, more than 1.5 million people have been infected worldwide and nearly 90,000 have lost their lives.
After originating in Wuhan, China last December, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 184 countries and regions across the world, with its epicenter shifting to Europe.