Donald Trump threatens World Health Organization to permanently withdraw the US out of the global body.
Trump had claimed the organisation had shown an “alarming lack of independence” from China and accused Tedros of presiding over “repeated missteps … that have been extremely costly for the world”. The letter, he said, followed a US investigation into the WHO’s “failed response to the Covid-19 outbreak”.
Trump’s threat came on the day the WHO member states met for the first day of a two-day virtual assembly. Tedros had invited both Trump and Xi Jinping to speak, in the hope of resolving differences between the two leaders on handling the outbreak, but Trump did not take part. the WHO members states are set to agree to an independent investigation – put forward in a resolution by the EU – into how the coronavirus was handled.
On Monday night, the president published the letter, citing a timeline of the organisation’s alleged failings, which was based on a selective version of the pandemic, highlighting where the WHO had publicised Chinese findings on the nature of the disease, but ignoring or glossing over clear warnings from the organisation about the dangers of the contagion.
The move came hours after the US president told reporters he had been taking hydroxychloroquine for a couple of weeks, despite warnings from his administration that it is dangerous. “I think it’s good, I heard a lot of good stories … I take a pill every day,” he said.
Some claims in Trump’s letter were false, for example that Taiwan had warned about human-to-human transmission of the disease on 31 December. On that date Taiwan sent a letter to the WHO noting the reported spate of unexplained pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, and that the patients were in isolation, and asking for further details.
As the pandemic worsens in the US, and other countries begin a tentative recovery, Trump has sought to blame China and the WHO. He has suspended US funding to the organisation, pointing to the disparity between US and much smaller Chinese contributions and accusing Tedros and his team of being “China-centric”.
Trump ended the letter with an ultimatum.
“We do not have time to waste,” he wrote. “That is why it is my duty as president of the United States to inform you that if the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of the United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider membership in the organization. I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests.”