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WHO focused on saving lives, says chief after US funding freeze

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A TV grab taken from a video released by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attending a virtual news briefing on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) from the WHO headquarters in Geneva on April 6, 2020. – The WHO said on April 6, 2020 that facemasks could be justified in areas where hand-washing and physical distancing were difficult, as it teamed up with Lady Gaga to launch a giant coronavirus awareness concert. (Photo by – / AFP)

The World Health Organization is purely focused on saving lives and halting the coronavirus pandemic, its chief said Wednesday after US President Donald Trump announced he was freezing funding for the WHO.

“There is no time to waste. WHO’s the singular focus is on working to serve all people to save lives and stop the COVID-19 pandemic,” director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter following Trump’s decision.

Trump said Tuesday he was freezing the funding pending a review into the UN health agency’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”, adding: “everybody knows what’s going on there”.

The United States is the biggest individual contributor to the WHO’s funds.

Tedros was due to host one of his thrice-weekly virtual press conferences later Wednesday from the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva.

Tedros tweeted the WHO’s updated strategic preparedness and response plan for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which was released on Tuesday.

“The updated WHO global COVID-19 strategy guides the public health response at national and subnational levels, including practical guidance for strategic action, tailored to the local context,” he said.

“One of the main things we’ve learned in the past months about COVID-19 is that the faster all cases are found, tested, isolated and cared for, the harder we make it for the virus to spread.

“This principle will save lives and mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.”

Trump’s move has drawn criticism from the United Nations, Russia, China, the European Union, the African Union and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, another major WHO contributor through his foundation.

The pandemic has killed more than 125,000 people worldwide and infected at least two million people, according to an AFP tally.


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