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Trump says WHO ‘really blew it’ on coronavirus, threatens funding cut

US President accuses organisation of issuing bad advice and threatens to withhold funding

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump sharply criticised the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday, accusing it of being too focused on China and issuing bad advice during the coronavirus outbreak and saying he would put a hold on US funding for the agency.

"The WHO really blew it," Mr Trump said in a Twitter post.

"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?"

Mr Trump repeated the accusations against the UN health organisation at a White House news briefing later on Tuesday.

"They called it wrong. They really - they missed the call," the president said.

"And we're going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We're going to put a very powerful hold on it and we're going to see."

WHO officials yesterday denied that the body was "China-centric" and said that the acute phase of a pandemic was not the time to cut funding.

The US is the top donor to the Geneva-based body.

US contributions to WHO last year exceeded US$400 million (S$571 million), almost double the second largest member state contribution. China, in contrast, contributed US$44 million.

"We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding," Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, told a virtual briefing in response to a question about Mr Trump's remarks.

Dr Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO Director-General, also defended the UN agency's relationship with China, saying its work with Beijing authorities was important to understand the outbreak which began in Wuhan.

FULL ACCESS

"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," he said.

"This is what we did with every other hard-hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically."

He also defended WHO recommendations to keep borders open, saying that China had worked very hard to identify and detect early cases and their contacts and ensure they did not travel in order to contain the outbreak.

Nearly 2,000 people infected with the new virus have died in the US in 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday night.

The record daily figure of 1,939 brings the total number of deaths in the US to 12,722, which is approaching tolls in the worst-hit countries so far - Italy with 17,127 dead and Spain with 13,798.

New York state also recorded its highest number of deaths in 24 hours, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday, adding though that hospitalisations appeared to be "plateauing".

Mr Cuomo said 731 people succumbed to the new coronavirus on Monday, bringing the state's total death toll to 5,489.

The previous single-day record was 630, set on Friday. - REUTERS, AFP

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