Trump threatens to pull back funding from WHO over agency’s coronavirus response

Coronavirus outbreak: Trump ‘looking into’ holding up funding for the WHO amid COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: Coronavirus outbreak: Trump ‘looking into' holding up funding for the WHO amid COVID-19 pandemic

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to pull back funding from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday over the agency’s response to the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at a press conference, Trump first told reporters the U.S. would put a “very powerful hold” on money sent to the WHO, adding that they “missed the call” on the pandemic.

When asked whether placing a hold on the organization was the right thing to do amid a pandemic minutes later, Trump backtracked and said he was going to “look at” doing it.

READ MORE: U.S. ‘wasted’ months before preparing for COVID-19 pandemic: former health secretary

“I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but we will look at ending funding,” he said.

He also criticized the organization as being “very China-centric” for denouncing his Jan. 31 travel ban, which saw foreign nationals who had travelled to China within the last 14 days barred from entering the U.S.

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This is not the first time the president has voiced his lack of confidence in the WHO. Prior to the conference, he tweeted “The W.H.O. really blew it,” asking why they gave such “faulty” recommendations.

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In February, the Trump administration’s budget proposal also sought to halve the amount of funding it provided the WHO from roughly $122 million to $57.9 million.

The WHO’s most recent notice of assessment showed the U.S. was expected to pay $115,766,922 to the agency for the biennium of 2020-2021.

The president also downplayed the significance of two memos from White House trade adviser Peter that underscored the dangers posed by COVID-19 in January, saying he didn’t read them up until one or two days ago.

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“It was a recommendation, it was a feeling that he had, I think he told certain people in the staff but, it didn’t matter. I didn’t see it,” the president said of the memos, adding that he “closed” the border with China down at around the same time the documents were sent out.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trump defends COVID-19 response amid questions about Peter Navarro memo
Coronavirus outbreak: Trump defends COVID-19 response amid questions about Peter Navarro memo

The WHO declared a public health emergency over COVID-19 on Jan. 30, which was more than a month before Trump declared a national emergency over the pandemic in the U.S. and two days after the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

Since its initial outbreak in December, COVID-19 has infected more than 1.4 million people and killed over 81,000, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

As of Tuesday evening, the numbers from Johns Hopkins showed U.S. as the epicentre of the disease, with over 390,000 confirmed cases and 12,844 deaths.

— With files from The Associated Press