Donald Trump halts funding to the WHO: What they said and did about the coronavirus

President Donald Trump himself downplayed the threat posted by the outbreak throughout January, February, and March.
President Donald Trump himself downplayed the threat posted by the outbreak throughout January, February, and March.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES) - President Donald Trump has suspended US funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), accusing the global body of failing "in its basic duty" with its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Mr Trump himself downplayed the threat posted by the outbreak throughout January, February, and March , repeatedly asserting that everything was under control. Here's a look at what Mr Trump and the WHO have said about the novel coronavirus:

Dec 31, 2019: A day after China reports a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province- which is later identified as the novel coronavirus - the WHO sets up an IMST (Incident Management Support Team) across the three levels of the organisation: headquarters, regional headquarters and country level.

- Jan 4, 2020: The WHO announces that there was a cluster of pneumonia cases – with no deaths – in Wuhan, Hubei province, on social media. 

- Jan 5: The WHO publishes its first-ever Disease Outbreak News on the new virus, which contains a risk assessment and advice, and reports on what China had told the organisation about the status of patients and the public health response.

- Jan 10: The WHO issues a comprehensive package of technical guidance online with advice to all countries on how to detect, test and manage potential cases, based on what was known about the virus at the time. 

Based on experience with Sars and Mers and known modes of transmission of respiratory viruses, infection and prevention control guidance were published to protect health workers recommending droplet and contact precautions when caring for patients, and airborne precautions for aerosol-generating procedures conducted by health workers.

- Jan 12: China publicly shares the genetic sequence of Covid-19. 

- Jan 13: Officials confirm a case of Covid-19 in Thailand, the first recorded case outside of China. 

- Jan 20-21: WHO experts from the China and Western Pacific regional offices conduct a brief field visit to Wuhan.

- Jan 22: The US President says the virus does not pose a threat to the United States. “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

The WHO mission to China issues a statement saying that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan, but more investigation was needed to understand the full extent of transmission.

- Jan 22- 23: WHO Director- General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus convenes an Emergency Committee (EC) under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) to assess whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. 

The independent members from around the world cannot reach a consensus based on the evidence available at the time and ask to be reconvened within 10 days after receiving more information.

- Jan 28: A senior WHO delegation led by the Director-General travels to Beijing to meet China’s leadership, learn more about China’s response, and to offer any technical assistance. While in Beijing, Dr Tedros agrees with Chinese government leaders that an international team of leading scientists would travel to China on a mission to better understand the context, the overall response, and exchange information and experience.

- Jan 29: The leaders of the World Health Organisation praise China and its leader, President Xi Jinping, for their response to the ongoing outbreak of a novel coronavirus. 
“Its (China’s) actions actually helped prevent the spread of coronavirus to other countries,” Dr Tedros said about China.

He also said he was “very impressed and encouraged by the President’s detailed knowledge of the outbreak”.

The Trump administration declares a public health emergency. President Trump establishes the White House Coronavirus Task Force to coordinate and oversee efforts to “monitor, prevent, contain, and mitigate the spread” of Covid-19.

- Jan 31: The United States announces restrictions on travellers from China.

- Feb 19: Mr Trump suggests that the virus would not survive in the warmer months in the United States. “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus. So let’s see what happens, but I think it’s going to work out fine.”


- Feb 26: As the number of cases began to mount in the US, Mr Trump says that the steps taken to prevent contagion would bear fruit. He appoints Vice-President Mike Pence to take charge of the nation’s response to the virus. “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low… When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” says Mr Trump.

- March 11: The WHO makes the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic. “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock, and we’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Dr Tedros tells reporters in Geneva.

The CDC issues a recommendation against any non-essential travel to China, most of Europe, Iran, Malaysia, and South Korea. The following week, the State Department recommends that US citizens not travel abroad, while those who are abroad should “arrange for immediate return to the United States” unless prepared to remain abroad indefinitely.

- March 19: The US Department of State advises US citizens to avoid all international travel.

March 20: Taiwan accuses the WHO of failing to communicate an early warning about transmission of the coronavirus between humans. Taipei said it alerted the WHO at the end of December about the risk of human-to-human transmission of the virus, but was ignored - apparently due to its strained relationship with China, which claims the island as its own territory. 

The US begins barring entry to foreign nationals who had been in 28 European countries within the past 14 days. Flights from all restricted countries are required to land at one of 13 airports for “enhanced” entry screenings.

- March 24: Mr Trump says he wants the country to open by April 12. “They have to go back to work; our country has to go back. Our country is based on that, and I think it’s going to happen pretty quickly.”

- March 27: The House and Senate pass a US$2.2 trillion emergency spending Bill, the largest in US history, that is then signed by Mr Trump.

- April 8: The WHO says despite “positive signs” from some countries, it was too early to scale back measures aimed at containing the coronavirus.

- April 9: The US accuses the WHO of putting politics first by ignoring Taiwanese warnings over China’s coronavirus outbreak.

- April 10: The WHO publicly rejects Taiwan’s claim that it ignored the early warning about the virus. 

- April 13: Rumours swirl that Mr Trump will fire Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, after the President retweets a tweet with a #FireFauci.

- April 14: Mr Trump instructs his administration to halt funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO).