WHO issues appeal for US$675m to fight coronavirus

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses a meeting of the WHO Executive Board on Feb 3, 2020.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses a meeting of the WHO Executive Board on Feb 3, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

GENEVA (AFP) - The World Health Organisation on Wednesday (Feb 5) called for US$675 million (S$935 million) in donations for a plan to fight the coronavirus, mainly through investment in countries considered particularly "at risk".

"Today, we're launching a strategic preparedness and response plan... We're requesting US$675 million to fund the plan for the next three months," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference in Geneva.

"Our message to the international community is invest today or pay more later," Dr Tedros said, adding that the funding appeal was "much less than the bill we will have to pay if we do not invest in preparedness now".

He said US$60 million of the funds would be for WHO operations while the remainder would go to countries requiring assistance to guard against the deadly virus.

He said the WHO was sending 500,000 masks and 40,000 respirators to 24 countries from its warehouses in Dubai and Accra.

He also hailed a US$100 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, announced earlier on Wednesday, for virus testing, treatment and vaccine research.

Asked about Britain's call for its nationals to leave China, Dr Tedros said: "That blanket approach may not help. We encourage all countries to make decisions based on evidence."

He said an international expert mission being organised by WHO would be leaving for China "very, very soon".