President Trump released a blistering letter late Monday to the head of the World Health Organization, stating that his administration conducted an investigation that confirmed the health body’s multiple failures in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, and warned that his current funding freeze will become permanent if the organization does not make “substantive” improvements within 30 days.
“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world,” he wrote in the letter to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China.”
The White House has insisted that Beijing downplayed the virus' threat in December, which led to the subsequent outbreak. China has denied the charge and accused Trump of shirking responsibility to the organization, according to the AFP.
WHO told Reuters Tuesday that it was reviewing the letter and to expect a comment sometime later in the day.
Trump announced in April that the U.S. would halt funding to the organization. He said at the time that his administration would undertake a 60-to-90 day investigation into why the "China-centric" WHO had caused "so much death" by "severely mismanaging and covering up" the coronavirus' spread, including by making the "disastrous" decision to oppose travel restrictions on China.
The U.S. was the WHO's largest single donor. Trump said the United States contributes roughly $400 to $500 million per year to WHO, while China offers only about $40 million.
The letter offers a bullet-point list of shortcomings at the agency that Trump claimed could have been prevented under the right leadership.
The WHO “consistently ignored credible reports of the virus” in December 2019. By the end of that month, it was clear at the organization that the virus was a “major health concern.” Taiwanese authorities told health officials at the organization about human-to-human transmission, but that revelation was not shared with the international community.
Trump’s letter stated that International Health Regulations require countries to report the “risk of a health emergency within 24 hours.”
The letter laid the blame squarely on China and the WHO for weeks of non-action. The health body even accused U.S. travel restrictions to the country in late February of causing “more harm than good.”
“By the time you finally declared the virus a pandemic on March 11, 2020, it had killed more than 4,000 people and infected more than 100,000 people in at least 114 countries,” the letter read.
Trump's letter comes as Democrats criticize the White House for not taking the virus seriously from the outset.
Dr. Rick Bright, a whistleblower who ran the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, blamed the Trump administration for its own slow response to the pandemic and said the administration was instead worried about politics instead of science.
Trump has dismissed Bright's charges and has indicated that he is a disgruntled employee with a political bent.
The WHO bowed to calls Monday from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 300,000 people and leveled the global economy.