Europe

WHO denies being 'China-centric' as Donald Trump threatens funding cuts

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization. Source: AAP

The United States is the top financial donor to the United Nations' health body, contributing more than $400 million in 2019.

World Health Organization officials have denied the body is “China-centric” and said that the acute phase of a pandemic was not the time to cut funding, after US President Donald Trump said he would put contributions on hold.

The United States is the top donor to the Geneva-based body which Mr Trump said had issued bad advice during the COVID-19 outbreak.

US contributions to WHO in 2019 exceeded $US400 million, almost double the second largest member state contribution. China, in contrast, contributed $US44 million.

“We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding,” Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, told a virtual briefing in response to a question about the president's remarks.

Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO Director-General, also defended the UN agency’s relationship with China, saying its work with Beijing authorities was important to understand the outbreak which began in the city of Wuhan.

“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” he told reporters.

“This is what we did with every other hard-hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically.”

He also defended WHO recommendations to keep borders open, saying that China had worked very hard to identify and detect early cases and their contacts and ensure they did not travel in order to contain the outbreak.

On Europe, Dr Kluge described the outbreak of coronavirus there as “very concerning” and urged governments to give “very careful consideration” before relaxing measures to control its spread.

“A dramatic rise in cases across the Atlantic skews what remains a very concerning picture in Europe,” he said. “We still have a long way to go in the marathon.”

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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