Covid-19: China to donate additional €28m to WHO

Contribution comes days after Washington said the US would freeze funding to WHO

Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

 

China announced on Thursday it would donate an additional $30 million (€27.7 million) to the World Health Organisation to support the global battle against Covid-19, a move that comes days after Washington accused the health body of mismanaging the crisis and said it would freeze its funding.

With tensions rising between the US and China over the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the financial support was “defending the ideals and principles of multilateralism and upholding the status and authority of the United Nations”.

The contribution, which is in addition to $20 million (€18m) pledged last month, would be used to support health systems in developing countries, he said.

Historically the US is a significantly larger donor to the WHO – Washington contributed $896 million in 2018, while Beijing gave $86 million – but last week US president Donald Trump suspended funding and accused the Geneva-based organisation of “disinformation” and being “very China-centric”.

He claimed the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed the lives of more than 184,000 globally, could have been contained with “very little death” had China been more transparent and had the WHO assessed the early situation accurately.

Mr Trump had originally disagreed with widespread criticisms of China and consistently praised Beijing’s performance, but with US infections soaring he shifted his stance at a press briefing on March 22nd.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that China “didn’t share all the information that it had and instead covered up how dangerous the disease was. It didn’t report sustained human-to-human transmission for a month” until it had spread to every province in China.

“The [Chinese Communist Party] still has not shared the virus sample from inside of China with the outside world, making it impossible to track the disease’s evolution,” he added.

In its monitoring of the situation in China in the early phases, Mr Pompeo said that the WHO had “clearly failed during this pandemic”.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday he hoped the Trump administration would reconsider the funding decision. “I hope the US believes that this is an important investment, not just to help others but for the US to stay safe also,” he said.

Mr Trump said a decision on resuming funding would be made after a government investigation into the WHO’s response to the outbreak.

On Thursday, the Chinese foreign ministry criticised a lawsuit by the state of Missouri that seeks damages from China over its handling of the outbreak. The “vexatious litigation” was “absurd and has no factual and legal basis”, a spokesman said.

In an editorial on Thursday the state-run Global Times newspaper said that in response to the suit China needed to “enhance its countermeasures against US hooliganism”, which had now expanded into the judicial realm.

“If Washington goes beyond verbal attacks and takes concrete actions to provoke China, China must firmly strike back, to prove that it cannot be bullied,” the editorial said.

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