Coronavirus

Trump to terminate US relationship with WHO over coronavirus

US President Donald Trump said his country would terminate its relationship with the World Health Organistaion over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trump to terminate US relationship with WHO over coronavirus
MANDEL NGAN AFP

The US will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO), said President Donald Trump in his afternoon press briefing on Friday at the White House. Trump's reason for the split is that the WHO has badly handled the coronavirus outbreak, and that the organisation has essentially become a puppet of China. During the briefing Trump also laid out his plans to remove Hong Kong's preferential treatment by the US.

Trump to eliminate WHO funding

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden Trump announced his plan to go ahead with his repeated threats to eliminate American funding for the group, which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Trump said the WHO had failed to make reforms to the organisation that the president had demanded earlier this month.

Trump blames China and WHO over Covid-19

He said Chinese officials "ignored their reporting obligations" about the virus to the WHO and pressured the WHO to "mislead the world" when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities.

"China has total control over the World Health Organisation despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying which is approximately $450 million a year. We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly but they have refused to act," said Trump.

"Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs," he said.

Trump's 'America First' agenda

Trump has long questioned the value of the United Nations and scorned the importance of multilateralism as he focuses on an "America First" agenda. Since taking office, Trump has quit the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, a global accord to tackle climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

The World Health Organization is a U.N. specialized agency - an independent international body that works with the United Nations. The WHO and a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump's decision

Coronavirus pandemic in the US

The US has been one of the worst hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic, with over 100,000 deaths, and over 1.7 million confirmed cases. President Trump, however, has consistently refused to accept any blame for the extent of the crisis in the country, despite initially downplaying any risk from the disease, saying it was no worse that flu and that the US had a "very little problem". 

Instead the president has made much of his decision to close the border with China at the end of January (even though at that point many of the infectious people arriving in the US were coming from Europe).

Trump now argues that the disease should never have reached the US, saying: "It should have never happened. Could've been stopped at the source. Could've been stopped in China. It should've been stopped right at the source. And it wasn't."

Back on 24 January, however, Trump tweeted: "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!"