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Donald Trump vs the WHO: what you need to know

09 April 2020 - 19:10 By Cebelihle Bhemgu
American president Donald Trump has been warned by the WHO to stop politicising the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trump American president Donald Trump has been warned by the WHO to stop politicising the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: REUTERS/Leah Millis

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday responded to a threat levelled against the organisation by US president Donald Trump by saying the coronavirus pandemic must not be politicised as that would put more lives at risk.

Here's what happened:

'The US will withhold WHO funding - or maybe not'

On Tuesday, Trump blamed the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the initial spread of the coronavirus in the US and accused it of having shown continued bias towards China and withholding information.

He told reporters the US would withhold its contribution towards the WHO.

“We're going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO and we'll see. It's a great thing if it works but when they call every shot wrong, that's no good.”

Trump quickly changed his statement when asked if withdrawing funding during an outbreak was a wise move.

“I'm not saying I'm going to do it, but I'm going to look at it. I said we'll look at it and we'll investigate it, We will look at ending funding because over the years, everything seems to be biased towards China,” he said.

He repeated his initial statement via Twitter, saying the WHO is “China-Centric".

WHO responds 

Ghebreyesus warned during a  WHO press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, that politicising coronavirus would lead to more deaths. He was responding to a question regarding threats made by Trump. 

“Don't politicise this virus. It exploits the differences you have at national level. If you want to be exploited and have many more body bags, then you do it,” he said.

He later took to Twitter to reiterate his view.

Before the coronavirus spread in the US, Trump was heavily criticised by experts for his failure to heed warnings about the potential disaster.

Recent reports reveal that he was further warned by his top White House advisers about the pandemic, but ignored them. These reports have renewed criticism of his lack of leadership in recent months.

In March, Trump dismissed the deadly virus at one of his press briefings as a form of flu and said US citizens must be more concerned about seasonal flu than coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19.