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Trump says he will ‘put a hold’ on US funding to World Health Organization, says ‘they missed the call’ on coronavirus pandemic

President Donald Trump calls on a reporter to ask a question as he speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Monday.
President Donald Trump calls on a reporter to ask a question as he speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Monday.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he’s considering putting a “hold” on U.S. funding for the World Health Organization after the agency “blew it” by failing to sound the alarm sooner about the coronavirus.

“I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but we’re going to look at it,” the president said Tuesday at a White House briefing on the coronavirus.

Congress allocated about $123 million to the WHO in 2020. Earlier in the briefing Trump called the Geneva-based international body “very China centric.” He also said the WHO was wrong to advise against travel restrictions he imposed on China.

“They’re always on the side of China, but we fund it,” Trump said. “So we want to look into it.”

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‘Great Job’

China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday expressed support for the WHO and said the U.S. defunding it would have “negative impacts” effect on global cooperation to fight the virus.

“We hope countries will stay in solidarity and contribute to this joint global response,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing. “China will continue to support the role of WHO and support its leadership in this fight.”

The WHO has urged countries to avoid blanket travel bans to countries experiencing outbreaks because historically such moves have been ineffective. People often book flights through another hub, which can make their movements difficult for authorities to trace. Restrictions can also prevent countries from receiving medical equipment and vital goods.

The WHO has a policy of avoiding public criticism of member countries in order to avoid undercutting their health measures.

Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said Trump was doing a “great job” by using what the president has called a whole-government approach. He also praised Trump for leveraging research and development, engaging with the private sector on things such as medical supplies, expanding testing and educating the public.

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Tedros has also repeatedly praised China, even as Beijing was criticized by other countries and organizations for being slow to respond initially to the outbreak there and for resisting cooperation with international disease-trackers.