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CORONAVIRUS

Trump slashes US ties with WHO, blames China for 102,000 American deaths

US President Donald Trump ends his country's relationship with the World Health Organisation, an agency the US helped to create.
US President Donald Trump ends his country's relationship with the World Health Organisation, an agency the US helped to create. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
2 min

US President Donald Trump has terminated his country’s decades-long relationship with the World Health Organisation over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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In a 10-minute address in the White House Rose Garden Friday, Trump said “China has total control" over the WHO, adding the body had failed to make “greatly needed reforms”.

He accused China of instigating “a global pandemic” that had killed 102,000 Americans. 

“The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government … Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe,” Trump said.

The move follows through on a threat laid down earlier this month, when the President sent a letter to the WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warning he would permanently cut US funding and reconsider US membership if the agency did “not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days”.

Washington is the largest single contributor to the WHO – providing some 360m euros in 2019 – but those membership fees will now be redirected to other organisations, Trump said.

The European Union on Saturday urged Trump to reconsider his decision and instead embrace common solutions to a global threat.

"The WHO needs to continue being able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. "For this, the participation and support of all is required and very much needed." 

A spokeswoman for the WHO in Geneva said the agency would not respond to the US decision before Saturday, but public health experts in the US were quick to express alarm.

“We helped create the WHO,” Dr Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in a tweet. “We’re part of it — it is part of the world … Turning our back on the WHO makes us and the world less safe.”

About 20,000 Americans are infected each day from coronavirus and Trump, who is campaigning for re-election, has been accused of bungling his country’s response to the crisis.  

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