World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday responded to President Trump’s decision to withhold United States funding, saying that now was not the time to point fingers.
“For now, the focus should be on fighting this virus,” he said at a press conference after he was asked about Trump’s move. “The focus of all political parties should be to save their people.”
“Please don’t politicize this virus,” he added. “If you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.”
He argued in his long-winded response that “global solidarity is very important” and that the U.S. and China should “come together.”
“We shouldn’t waste time pointing fingers,” he continued. “Let’s unite.”
The day before, Trump announced he was suspending U.S. funding for the WHO. He called the agency “very China centric,” and tweeted, “the W.H.O. really blew it.”
The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020
There has been growing anger within the U.S. towards the agency’s amplifying of Chinese assertions about coronavirus, some of which were false.
For example, WHO infamously tweeted out on January 14 a Chinese claim that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus:
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
The agency also warned people against calling the virus “Chinese” or associating it with a region, despite the coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China.
China has tried to deflect blame for hiding and destroying early evidence of the coronavirus found in Wuhan as early as November. Some of its officials have claimed that U.S. soldiers brought it to Wuhan.
As the WHO has come under criticism, it has tried to forge ties with celebrities such as Lady Gaga. Tedros sent her birthday wishes and thanked her for her support of relief efforts.