U.S. funding to the World Health Organization is being halted by President Donald Trump, who blames it for creating "a 20-fold increase" in COVID-19 cases worldwide.
The U.N. health agency, according to Trump, made a "disastrous decision" to oppose his restrictions on travel from China and put "political correctness above life-saving measures."
The action had been expected as Trump repeatedly signaled the move after accusing the WHO of having a bias in favor of China, despite the United States being its largest single funder.
The president said the freeze on funds for the global agency will remain in place "for 60 to 90 days" while a review of its response to the outbreak of the coronavirus is conducted.
Trump contends that the WHO failed in its "basic duty" to investigate early reports out of China about the virus in December of last year.
"Withholding funds for WHO in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century makes as much sense as cutting off ammunition to an ally as the enemy closes in," said Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and ranking member of the subcommittee on State Department and foreign operations.
"The White House knows that it grossly mishandled this crisis from the beginning, ignoring multiple warnings and squandering valuable time, dismissing medical science, comparing COVID-19 to the common cold, and saying 'everything will be fine,'" Leahy said.
The House Oversight Committee added its own criticism, saying in a letter to Trump that his WHO blame "reflects an astonishing level of hypocrisy given your own fawning and widely publicized praise of President Xi Jinping and his government for their handling of this crisis."
In a statement Tuesday night, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres repeated his support of the WHO from a week ago:
“It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19.
“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.
“But now is not that time.”
“As it is not that time, it also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.”
After a backlash, including from several key senators in his own Republican Party, Trump modified his assertions of the previous day that he would use his "ultimate authority" to soon lift stay-at-home directives and reopen the country's economy.
Trump announced he would allow each governor to decide on how and when they would reopen their individual economies.
Source : VOA