The White House versus WHO

It’s not surprising to see Donald Trump blaming others for their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s what he frequently does to divert from his own problems or mistakes. He has taken a swipe at the World Health Organisation and threatened to withdraw US funding, although as is also common with him, soon after that (in the same media conference) he contradicted himself.

Financial Times: Donald Trump threatens to freeze funding for WHO

President Donald Trump threatened to freeze funding for the World Health Organization as he accused the body of withholding information about coronavirus in Wuhan and being “wrong” about the outbreak in China.

Mr Trump said the WHO had “missed the call” when it came to the early detection of the virus in Wuhan and called the organisation very “China-centric”. He also blasted WHO for what he said was criticism of his decision in January to ban flights from China to the US.

“They could have called it months earlier,” Mr Trump said at a White House press briefing on Tuesday. “They would have known and they should have done. And they probably did know, so we’ll be looking into that very carefully. And we’re going to put a hold on money sent to the WHO.”

Mr Trump said he would put a “very powerful hold” on the funding. But when pressed on whether the US should withhold funds during the pandemic, the president softened his threat — one of the many examples of the president contradicting himself during the same press conference. “I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but we’ll have a look,” Mr Trump said. “You know what, they called it wrong. And if you look back over the years . . . everything seems to be very biased toward China. It’s not right.”

Mr Trump’s criticism reignited a debate about blame for the spread of the disease, which has been contracted by 1.43m people around the world and caused 82,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of US cases has soared to 399,000, with almost 13,000 fatalities.

The WHO in mid-January said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission, even after one of its experts said the opposite. Days later, it pointed to “some limited” direct transmission among humans, as China also confirmed the first cases of human-to-human transmission.

Later in January the WHO described the virus as a global emergency, but recommended that nations keep borders open to reduce the number of people crossing borders in irregular ways that would prevent health checks. Later that day Mr Trump banned most travel from China.

Mr Trump has been criticised for not taking the virus seriously early on, and particularly for saying it would disappear “like a miracle”. Each time he has come under attack, he has touted his move to ban flights from China, and sometimes his later step to expand restrictions to travel from Europe.

“They seem to come down the side of China,” said Mr Trump, who claimed that the WHO missed the early signs despite sending a team to Wuhan. “They didn’t see what was going on in Wuhan . . . How do you not see it?”

Trump’s deputy has also waded in: Pence vows US will ask WHO ‘tough questions’ over how ‘they could have been so wrong’ about coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence told “Hannity” Wednesday night that the U.S. will ask “tough questions” of the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic after the global health agency’s director warned President Trump and other world leaders against “politicizing” the outbreak.

“This is a president who believes in accountability, and the American taxpayers provide tens of millions of dollars to the World Health Organization. And as the president said yesterday, I suspect we will continue to do that, but that doesn’t mean that at the right time in the future we aren’t going to ask the tough questions about how the World Health Organization could have been so wrong.

“Literally at the time President Trump stood up the coronavirus task force in January and suspended all travel from China, just days before that, the World Health Organization was continuing to diminish the threat of the coronavirus and its impact in China. We’ll get to the answers of that and we’ll create accountability, just like the American people would want us to do.”

Note that this is on the president friendly “Hannity” and will be playing to an audience.

WHO deserves some criticism of their handling of the pandemic, but it would have been impossible for them to handle it perfectly.

But the president spraying around blame is likely to be more about diverting from the growing Covid problems in the US (although the worst hot spot, New York, seems to be flattening off now), where things haven’t been handled perfectly either.

There are now over 450,000 confirmed cases in the US and 16,000+ deaths (increasing by close to 2,000 a day).

Over the past week or so about a third of the world increase of cases has been in the US, and about a quarter of deaths.

It is too serious to get distracted by bitching and blaming.

But due to major restrictions on borders and social distancing and a big effort to increase testing and healthcare supplies the modeled scenarios are looking a lot less grim.

NPR: Fauci Says U.S. Coronavirus Deaths May Be ‘More Like 60,000’; Antibody Tests On Way

The U.S. is enduring a “very bad week” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci says. But he also says that the American public’s embrace of physical separation and other restrictions is sharply reducing projections of the death toll from the respiratory virus.

The final toll currently “looks more like 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000” that U.S. officials previously estimated, Fauci said.

Even earlier warnings were of potentially millions of deaths if nothing was done to limit the spread of the virus, so 60,000 doesn’t look so bad (but is still substantial).

Channel News Asia: WHO urges global unity, defends handling of pandemic after Trump’s criticism

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday (Apr 8) pleaded for global unity in fighting the coronavirus and gave a strident defence of his agency’s handling of the pandemic, in response to US President Donald Trump’s criticism.

As the WHO prepares to mark 100 days on Thursday since it was first notified of the outbreak in China, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hit back at accusations that it had been too close to Beijing.

Tedros urged the United States to join with China in combating the disease rather than indulging in a blame game, as he issued a stern defence of the WHO’s management of the pandemic.

“The United States and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy,” Tedros told a virtual press briefing in Geneva.

“The focus of all political parties should be to save their people. Please don’t politicise this virus.

“If you want to have many more body bags – then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicising it.

Tedros also rejected Trump’s suggestion that the WHO was “China-centric”, saying: “We are close to every nation, we are colour-blind.”

Citing the death toll and number of infections, Tedros implored: “For God’s sake … is this not enough?”

WHO, Trump and many others are under extreme pressure trying to combat Covid. They all need to work together and cooperate as much as possible regardless of past mistakes or questionable decisions.