WHO chief says confident US funding will continue in coronavirus fight

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The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced confidence on Monday that the United States would continue funding his UN agency, despite President Donald Trump’s criticism of WHO’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that the Trump administration was re-evaluating US funding to the body, saying international organizations utilizing US taxpayer money needed to deliver on their goals.

The United States is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15 percent of its budget.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, asked by a US-based journalist about reports that Trump might “cut off” funding this week, said he had spoken with him two weeks ago.

“What I know is that he is supportive and I hope that the funding to WHO will continue. The relationship we have is very good and we hope that this will continue,” Tedros said.

Days after China informed it about cases of pneumonia of unknown originon December 31, the WHO sent an alert to all member states on January 5, its top emergencies expert Dr. Mike Ryan said.

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“From that perspective the information was shared and very appropriate actions were taken in the United States in response to that alert,” he said.

“Time for vigilance”

Tedros said that countries in Europe that are considering lifting restrictions as the number of new cases stabilizes or drops must be guided by the need to protect human health.

“While COVID accelerates very fast, it decelerates much more slowly. In other words the way down is much slower than the way up. Control measures must be lifted slowly...,” he said.

Asked whether Europe was approaching a “turning point”, Ryan said: “We look at the number of confirmed cases and at the number of hospitalizations as the first indicator that things may be stabilizing and we're certainly seeing that.”

“Now is time for vigilance, now is time to double down, now is the time to be very, very careful. That doesn't mean the countries cannot begin to create an exit strategy,” Ryan said.

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