No time to waste, says WHO chief after US funding freeze

Trump on Tuesday said he was freezing the funding pending a review of the UN health agency's ‘role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus laid stress on “tried and tested public health tools” like self-isolation and contract tracing to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission.

Following US President Donald Trump’s announcement of halting America’s funding of up to $500 million annually to the World Health Organization (WHO), its chief said, the organisation is purely focused on saving lives and halting the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is no time to waste. WHO’s singular focus is on working to serve all people to save lives and stop the COVID-19 pandemic,” director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter.

Trump on Tuesday said he was freezing the funding pending a review into the UN health agency’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”, adding, “everybody knows what’s going on there”.

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The United States is the biggest individual contributor to the WHO’s funds.

Tedros was due to host one of his thrice-weekly virtual press conferences later on Wednesday from the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva.

Tedros tweeted the WHO’s updated strategic preparedness and response plan for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which was released on Tuesday.

“The updated WHO global COVID-19 strategy guides the public health response at national and subnational levels, including practical guidance for strategic action, tailored to the local context,” he said.

“One of the main things we’ve learned in the past months about COVID-19 is that the faster all cases are found, tested, isolated and cared for, the harder we make it for the virus to spread.

“This principle will save lives and mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.”

Trump’s move has drawn criticism from the United Nations, Russia, China, the European Union, the African Union and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, another major WHO contributor through his foundation.

Saying the world needs WHO now more than ever, Gates said,”halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds.

Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them.”

Trump and his senior officials have previously accused the Geneva-based UN health body of taking side with China in the coronavirus outbreak that has brought America’s economy, the world’s largest, to a standstill.

The pandemic has killed more than 125,000 people worldwide and infected at least two million people, according to an AFP tally.

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