Trump threatens to cease US funding of WHO

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US President Donald Trump has threatened to cease sending US funds to the World Health Organisation (WHO), claiming that the international body “missed the call” on the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Trump told reporters the WHO had “called it wrong” on the virus and that the organisation was “very China-centric” in its approach, seemingly suggesting that the WHO had gone along with Beijing’s efforts months ago to minimise the severity of the outbreak.

The WHO has praised China for its transparency on the virus, even though there has been reason to believe that more people died of Covid-19 than the country’s official tally.

“They should have known and they probably did know,” Trump said of WHO officials.

Trump said during Tuesday night’s White House press briefing that he would cut US funding to the organisation before minutes later backtracking and saying he would “strongly consider” it.

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He also downplayed the release of memos from a senior adviser in January which warned of a possible pandemic as cases continued to rise across the US.

He told reporters he was not aware of the memos in January but had unilaterally followed some of their recommendations, including taking steps to curtail travel from China. But he added that he would not have wanted to act prematurely when it was not clear how dire the situation would become.

“I don’t want to create havoc and shock and everything else. I’m not going to go out and start screaming, ’This could happen, this could happen’,” Trump said.

“I’m a cheerleader for this country,” he added.

Britain has asked the US for 200 ventilators to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Trump also said.

“They’ve been great partners. They wanted 200, they need them desperately.”

The UK government has said 30,000 ventilators will be needed for the NHS to cope with the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday New York City’s pandemic death toll of at least 4,000 people eclipsed the number of those killed at the World Trade Center on 11 September, 2001.

The updated toll came as Wall Street’s big rally vanished, undercut in part by another plunge in the price of oil.

Even though economists say a punishing recession is inevitable, investors this week have recently begun to look ahead to when economies will reopen from their medically-induced coma. A peak in new infections would offer some clarity about how long the recession may last and how deep it will be.

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