President Trump on Tuesday announced he would halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the WHO while a review is conducted to assess the WHO’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said at a White House press briefing. “The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable.”
It was not immediately clear if the order will cover all or part of U.S. government funding of the organization. The U.S. contributes over $400 million to the WHO every year, or 15 percent of the agency’s annual budget. (China funds 0.2 percent of the WHO’s budget.)
“The silence of the WHO on the disappearance of scientific researchers and doctors, and new restrictions on the sharing of research into the origins of COVID-19 in the country of origin is deeply concerning. Especially when we put up by far the largest amount of money,” Trump said. Over the weekend China mandated that research papers on the origin of the coronavirus must be approved by the state before publication.
Trump further assailed the agency’s criticism of travel restrictions the president imposed in January on travelers who had passed through China.
“The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above life-saving measures,” Trump said.
The president has previously indicated he would consider cutting U.S. funding to the WHO entirely. The agency has also come under fire from U.S. lawmakers for allegedly whitewashing Chinese government mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, which has since spread into a pandemic.
Taiwan in March accused the WHO of failing to publish early warnings from Taiwanese medical officials that the coronavirus could be spread via human-to-human transmission. China, which does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country, does not permit the WHO to accept Taiwan as a member state.