US President Trump is under considerable pressure in the Corona crisis.
In the WHO he has now found a culprit whom he can hold responsible for the scale of the pandemic.
Washington (dpa) – In the middle of the corona virus pandemic, US President Donald Trump has ordered a stop to contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO). Trump blamed the organization for the large number of deaths.
Due to the mismanagement of the WHO and its reliance on information from China, the epidemic had dramatically worsened and spread around the world, Trump said in the Rose Garden of the White House. His government will examine over the next 60 to 90 days what role the WHO has played in the “mishandling and cover-up of the spread of coronavirus”. Until then, he said, payments would be on hold.
For almost ten minutes Trump presented his scathing criticism to the WHO. “One of the most dangerous and costly decisions made by WHO was the disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other countries,” he said. “Fortunately, I was not convinced and I suspended travel from China, saving countless lives. Thousands and thousands of people would have died.” At the end of January, the US imposed a travel ban on foreign travelers from China. Other countries, however, had followed WHO recommendations, thereby “accelerating the pandemic around the world,” Trump claimed. “The decision by other major countries to keep travel open was one of the great tragedies and missed opportunities in the early days.”
THREATENING SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES
The WHO had not officially recommended trade and travel restrictions during the crisis, inter alia, with reference to the threat of interruption of needed aid transports and because of negative social and economic impacts on affected countries. However, at the beginning of March, WHO Emergency Relief Coordinator Michael Ryan said that, if necessary, drastic measures such as those taken in China or Italy – where freedom of movement was already restricted in severely affected regions at the time – could at least slow down the spread of the disease. In this context, travel restrictions are a sensible tactical strategy. Trump explained that travel bans worked like quarantines. “Pandemics depend on human-to-human transmission. Border controls are essential for virus control.”
MORE CRITICISM AND A LOOK BACK
But that is not all: Trump further criticized that the WHO had failed to critically and promptly verify the information provided by the Chinese government. Instead, it took China’s assurances at face value and even praised the country for its “so-called transparency”. The late declaration of a health emergency had “cost valuable time”. With faster and more determined WHO intervention, the epidemic could have been contained to its point of origin with few deaths, Trump claimed. “This would have saved thousands of lives and prevented economic damage worldwide.”
At his press conference, Trump revisited his own recent statements. He himself had repeatedly and explicitly praised China’s handling of the outbreak earlier this year. “China has worked very hard to contain the coronavirus, the United States appreciates its efforts and transparency,” can be read in a tweet on January 24, for example.
WHO is a welcome scapegoat for Trump. In the Corona crisis, he himself came under considerable pressure. The Republican had long publicly downplayed the danger of the corona virus. Now he is accused of having reacted too hesitantly to the outbreak, so that the USA was largely unprepared by the epidemic. Until early March, Trump asserted that the virus was not a cause of concern to the US and stated, “We have tremendous control over it.”
The United States is now the country with the most documented infections and corona deaths in the world. At least since the “New York Times” extensively documented the reaction of the government headquarters to the virus this weekend, Trump has been defending himself more and more vehemently against the accusations. He claims to have done everything in his power and listened to the advice of experts. “The truth is that Donald Trump was warned of this pandemic in January, ignored those warnings, took inadequate measures and caused unnecessary death and misfortune,” said US House of Representatives spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.
DRASTIC MEASURE TO CURRENT TIME
UN Secretary General António Guterres condemned Trump’s decision. It is “not the time to reduce resources for the efforts of WHO or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” he said. The virus and “its devastating consequences” must be stopped collectively. The UN chief had last week explicitly defended the work of the WHO – but had also promised an investigation at a later date. “The fact is that the WHO is helping to protect the Americans. It is an indispensable institution,” the former head of the US health authority CDC, Tom Frieden, told Fox News. “A stronger WHO is essential.”
THE WHO BUDGET
WHO, based in Geneva, is the United Nations’ main specialised agency in the field of health. According to its own statements, less than a quarter of its budget consists of the obligatory contributions of the member states. The USA is the largest payer in this group: for the years 2020 and 2021, almost 116 million US dollars are due in each case. China’s contribution for the two years is around 57 million US dollars each. In 2018 and 2019, they were still 37.9 million US dollars each, while the US contribution was almost at the same level. Germany currently has to pay 29 million US dollars per year. According to the WHO, the level of membership fees depends on the size of the population and the country’s prosperity.
THE OUTBREAK AND THE REACTION OF THE WHO
On 31 December, a report from the health commission of the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan revealed that a mysterious lung disease had broken out in the city. According to the WHO, it learned about it on the same day. The Chinese authorities retroactively dated the first infection to an earlier date. There were also early indications that the virus is transmitted from person to person. At the end of January, the WHO declared a “health emergency of international concern” due to the outbreak of the new lung disease. On 11 March it classified the spread of the Sars-CoV-2 virus as a pandemic.