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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hit back after President Trump announced Tuesday he would be cutting funding to the World Health Organization, saying now is “not the time” to cut funding and to criticize the response of leadership to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” Guterres noted. “Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis.”
“The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future. But now is not that time,” the UN leader continued in a statement.
TRUMP ANNOUNCES US WILL HALT FUNDING TO WHO OVER RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
He added that he believed the WHO, a UN agency, must be supported, calling it “absolutely critical” to winning the “war” against the coronavirus pandemic.
“As I have said before, now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” said Guterres.
At his daily press briefing Tuesday, the president announced he would cut funding to the organization, saying it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.”
In the meantime, Trump declared that the United States would undertake a 60-to-90-day investigation into why the “China-centric” WHO had caused “so much death” by “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus’ spread, including by making the “disastrous” decision to oppose travel restrictions on China.
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The United States is the WHO’s largest single donor, and the State Department had previously planned to provide the agency $893 million in the current two-year funding period. Trump said the United States contributes roughly $400 to $500 million per year to WHO, while China offers only about $40 million. The money saved will go to areas that “most need it,” Trump asserted.
“The WHO failed in this duty, and must be held accountable,” Trump went on. He added that the WHO had ignored “credible information” in December 2019 that the virus could be transmitted from human to human.
As early as late December, Wuhan medical staff were suspected to have contracted the disease, indicating likely human-to-human transmissibility.
On January 4, in a statement first flagged by The National Review, the head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection warned that “the city should implement the strictest possible monitoring system for a mystery new viral pneumonia that has infected dozens of people on the mainland, as it is highly possible that the illness is spreading from human to human.”
Even so, the WHO declared on Jan. 8: ““Preliminary identification of a novel virus in a short period of time is a notable achievement and demonstrates China’s increased capacity to manage new outbreaks.”
In January, the WHO responded to Trump’s travel ban on foreign nationals coming from China by saying that “travel bans to affected areas or denial of entry to passengers coming from affected areas are usually not effective in preventing the importation” of coronavirus cases and instead could have a “have a significant economic and social impact.”
Last month, Taiwan, which has essentially been shut out by the organization, accused the WHO of ignoring a warning it sent in December about human-to-human transmission of coronavirus.
On Tuesday White House economic advisor Peter Navarro told Fox News the WHO has “blood on their hands” due to inaction and repeated vouching for China in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some lawmakers, including Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., protested the president’s funding cut to the WHO, predicting it may give China even more undue influence over the agency.
“There’s no question that China hasn’t been transparent about this pandemic and we need to hold China accountable for lack of transparency and we need to establish international norms so that that kind of irresponsible behavior doesn’t happen again,” Khanna said during a phone call with reporters on Tuesday.
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“The answer to that is not to defund WHO, the World Health Organization, and allow that international institution to become more dependent on the influence of China and other nations. The answer is to fund it but to shape the World Health Organization in a way that’s consistent with American realities and the values of liberal democracies,” he said.
Fox News’ Gregg Re and Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.