China defends handling of coronavirus, backs review of global response under WHO

China defends handling of coronavirus, backs review of global response under WHO

Trump has already suspended USA funding for the World Health Organization after accusing it of being too China-centric, and at the same time led global criticism of Beijing's perceived lack of transparency in the early stages of the crisis.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Tuesday that the United States was trying to smear China and had miscalculated by trying to use China to avoid its own responsibility.

In a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Monday, Trump also said he'll reconsider the United States' membership within the organization unless those improvements are made within 30 days.

More than 317,000 people have died of COVID-19 out of almost 4.8 million infections worldwide, and governments are scrambling to contain the virus while seeking ways to resuscitate their hammered economies.

It was not clear how much voluntary funding the United States had already provided for World Health Organization programs in 2020.

"We don't have time to waste", he said.

China said it was now supporting the resolution, which initially stemmed from Australia's call for an independent probe into the origins of the virus.

President Trump threatened to permanently withdraw United States funding from the World Health Organization on Monday as he described failures amid the coronavirus pandemic and an "alarming lack of independence" from China.

In its first report on the handling of the pandemic, the seven-member oversight committee said the World Health Organization had "demonstrated leadership and made important progress in its COVID-19 response".

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech via video link to the opening of the WHO in Geneva
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the Assembly

Earlier, the WHO chief said the health body notified countries within 10 days and declared a global health emergency on January 30 when "there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside China".

Devi Sridhar, a professor of global health at the University of Edinburgh, said the letter was likely written for Trump's political base and meant to deflect blame for the virus' devastating impact in the US, which has by far the most infections and virus deaths in the world.

And this year, Washington has already paid the World Health Organization about $58 million, senior Trump administration officials said last month, half of what it is required to pay for 2020 - known as an assessed contribution.

It said every WHO member is obligated to pay its full contribution to the organization.

Earlier Monday, the World Health Organization said it would launch an independent review of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump then accused the United Nations body and Tedros of playing politics with people's health, criticizing their decision to "strongly" praise China's strict domestic travel restrictions while opposing his closing of USA borders and the ban on travellers coming from China.

Xi also pledged $2bn over two years to help with the COVID-19 response and said any vaccines developed against the disease by China would be made a public good.

Washington has suspended its funding to the health body, accusing it of being too close to Beijing, and covering up and mismanaging the pandemic.

Trump's letter came on the day that the coronavirus death toll in the United States topped 90,000 and the number of confirmed cases crossed 1.5 million making it the worst hit country so far.

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