US President Donald Trump on Tuesday cut off funding to the World Health Organization, accusing the UN body of mishandling the coronavirus crisis as governments grapple with how and when to get their struggling economies back to work.
The deadly pandemic has already killed more than 125,000 people and infected nearly two million worldwide since it first emerged in China late last year.
The novel coronavirus has also upended the lives of billions of people as nations imposed lockdown measures to curb its spread — undoubtedly reducing the death toll, but also sending the global economy into a tailspin.
As the tally of deaths and new infections appears to begin levelling off, world leaders and citizens are fiercely debating when to lift stay-at-home orders.
Trump said he could see “rays of light” on the horizon for the world’s largest economy, but launched a virulent attack on the WHO for “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
He accused the Geneva-based agency of propagating “false information” and charged that its reliance on Chinese data had “likely caused a 20-fold increase in cases worldwide.”
The US contributed $400 million to the WHO last year.
Trump had made no secret of his contempt for what he calls a “China-centric” institution, but his caustic barbs raised hackles — especially when the crisis is far from over.
It was “not the time to reduce the resources” of WHO, said UN chief Antonio Guterres in response to Trump’s remarks, adding the organization was “absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war” against the virus.
Some shops in Austria and Italy reopened Tuesday, one day after Spain allowed construction and factory workers to return to their jobs.
But France extended its nationwide lockdown for another month, and India extended confinement orders for its 1.3 billion people until at least May 3.
And dire economic forecasts poured in throughout the day.