Criticised for coronavirus pandemic response, Trump tries shifting blame to WHO

Workers gather the tests administered as Mend Urgent Care hosts a drive-thru testing for the virus, on April 14, 2020.
Workers gather the tests administered as Mend Urgent Care hosts a drive-thru testing for the virus, on April 14, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - For weeks, US President Donald Trump has faced relentless criticism for having overseen a slow and ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic, failing to quickly embrace public health measures that could have prevented the disease from spreading.

Recent polls show that more Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of the virus than approve.

So on Tuesday (April 14), the president tried to shift the blame elsewhere, ordering his administration to halt funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and claiming the organisation made a series of devastating mistakes as it sought to battle the virus.

He said his administration would conduct a review into whether the WHO was responsible for "severely mismanaging and covering up" the spread.

"So much death has been caused by their mistakes," the president told reporters during a White House briefing.

In effect, Trump was accusing the world's leading health organisation of making all of the mistakes that he has made since the virus first emerged in China and then spread rapidly around the world.

A centerpiece of the president's attack on the WHO is his contention that it was too quick to believe information about the virus coming from the Chinese government at a time when it should have been more critical.

He said the WHO "willingly took China's assurances to face value" and "pushed China's misinformation". But it was Trump himself who went out of his way to publicly and repeatedly praise the Chinese government for its handling of the virus at a time at the beginning of the year that his administration was negotiating a trade deal with China.

The biennial budget for the WHO is about US$6 billion (S$8.5 billion), which comes from member countries around the world. In 2019, the last year for which figures were available, the United States contributed about US$553 million.


Trump said on Tuesday that the United States would evaluate what to do with the money that currently is sent to the WHO, adding, "Maybe WHO will reform and maybe they won't."