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Editorial: Trump halts WHO aid, but ‘America First’ cannot contain novel coronavirus

U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States is halting its funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), just when the United Nations health body is struggling to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

Trump accused the WHO of “severely mismanaging” the pandemic by taking a pro-China stance, allowing the contagion to spread the world over.

 

The WHO has spearheaded the coronavirus response by sharing information on the status of the global infection status and vaccine development. The U.S. contribution to the global health body accounts for roughly 15% of its budget, and if these funds are cut off, it would deal a blow to the WHO’s future operations. Trump’s stance, which runs counter to global efforts to contain the pandemic, cannot be overlooked. We urge him to reconsider his decision.

 

It is true that the WHO sent out inaccurate information in its initial response, and was slow to take effective countermeasures.

 

Based on the results of preliminary investigations conducted by China, where the novel coronavirus outbreak began, the WHO suggested that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus. Around the time when the U.S. government imposed entry restrictions on Chinese visitors, the WHO called such measures “ineffective.”

 

Even though the U.N. body later shifted its policy, its inappropriate response during the first weeks of the outbreak may well have affected many countries’ own initial measures against the virus. It is necessary to investigate this issue down the road. That said, one must wonder why the U.S. has dared to announce it will stop its funding to the WHO at the very moment the U.N. health body is needed most.

 

China has been boosting its global presence through its “mask diplomacy” — sending medical supplies and teams to coronavirus-hit countries — as it appears on-course to containing the virus. By lashing out at the WHO, Trump is apparently aiming to keep China in check.

 

But his true motive for the move appears to be scoring political points ahead of the U.S. presidential election this coming November.

 

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States has reached 600,000, with more than 20,000 fatalities. It is obvious that the Trump administration is primarily responsible for these figures — both world-worsts.

 

From the onset of the virus crisis, Trump repeatedly struck an exceedingly optimistic tone, claiming that “the situation is under control.” He failed to make sufficient preparations for the worst-case scenario and fell behind in taking countermeasures.

If the president is aiming to dodge criticism of his administration by shifting the blame onto the WHO out of fear of negative repercussions on his re-election bid, we have to say that he is stunningly self-indulgent.

 

At a recent news conference, Trump released a video showing governors defending his administration. It is only natural that this stunt drew fire as a campaign ad.

 

It can be said that Trump’s announcement to halt U.S. funding to the WHO is part of his campaign strategy to showcase his authority to his own people by squeezing an international organization that he cannot control. If that is the case, the international community’s faith in the U.S. will only decline.

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