President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the World Health Organization, accusing it of botching the global coronavirus response and of being a “puppet of China..”
The American leader has been locked in a bitter spat with Beijing, alleging it covered up the initial outbreak in central China late last year before the disease unleashed death and economic devastation across the planet.
More than 317,000 people have died of COVID-19 out of nearly 4.8 million infections worldwide, and governments are scrambling to contain the virus while seeking ways to resuscitate their hammered economies.
With more fatalities and cases in the United States than any other country by far, under-pressure Trump has blamed the WHO for not doing enough to combat its initial spread.
“They’re a puppet of China, they’re China-centric to put it nicer,” he said on Monday at the White House. “They gave us a lot of bad advice.”
Trump had already suspended US funding to the UN body, and after his White House comments, he tweeted a letter he had sent to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus threatening to make that freeze permanent.
“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world,” the letter said.
“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” it added, giving the body 30 days to show “substantive improvements.”
Before the threat, the WHO had promised an independent review of its pandemic response.
Beijing has furiously denied the US allegations that it played down the threat, and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated at the World Health Assembly that his nation had been “transparent” throughout the crisis.
As he launched his latest attack on China, Trump also dropped a bombshell saying he was taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that his own government’s experts have said is not suitable for fighting the coronavirus.
“I take a pill every day,” said the president, adding that he is using it because he has “heard a lot of good stories.”