New Delhi: There was shock and dismay amidst the global health fraternity after US President Donald Trump late Friday night said that America was terminating its relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO), blamed it and China for the deaths and destruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe.
Stating that the funding of WHO would now be diverted to other global public health organisations, Trump announced a series of decisions against China including issuing proclamation to deny entry to certain Chinese nationals and tightening of regulations against Chinese investments in America.
However, healthcare experts flayed the decision at a time when the pandemic is raging across the globe, saying it would be disastrous for the global fight against diseases such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, among others.
“Pulling out of WHO is a disaster for the lives and health of all people, including Americans,” said well-know US surgeon and author, Atul Gawande, in a tweet, adding that “I can’t imagine a worse thing to do in the midst of a pandemic and ongoing work to fight back TB, HIV, polio and other health threats. America first does not work for global disease.”
While a reaction from WHO and China is still awaited, several US lawmakers and experts opposed such a move in the midst of a pandemic.
According to CGTN, Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, said the decision was "senseless" and had "significant, harmful repercussions."
"COVID-19 affects us all and does not respect borders; defeating it requires the entire world working together," Harris said in a statement. "In the strongest terms possible, the American Medical Association urges the President to reverse course and not abandon our country's leadership position in the global fight against COVID-19," the CTN report said.
The report also quoted Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, , saying that: "From a symbolic or moral standpoint it's the wrong type of action to be taking in the middle of a pandemic and seems to deflect responsibility for what we in the U.S. failed to do and blame the WHO."
There has been widespread criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, which has so far consumed over one lakh lives in the US.
“The world needs answers from China,” Trump said in his aggressive speech on a bright sunny day from the Rose Garden of the White House.
The president, however, did not take any questions. It was also not clear when this decision would come into effect.
According to a joint Congressional resolution in 1948, the US has the right to withdraw from WHO on a one year notice.
The US currently owes WHO more than $200 million in assessed contributions, says the WHO website.
Trump Rakes up Hong Kong
On Friday, Trump also announced that the US would end special treatment of Hong Kong in response to Chinese imposition of new controls.
He said that the US would revise its travel advisory to warn of surveillance in Hong Kong.
China, he alleged, has unlawfully claimed territories in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, threatening freedom of navigation and international trade and broke its word to the world on ensuring the autonomy of Hong Kong.
Trump alleged that the Chinese government has continually violated its promises to the US and many other nations.
Observing that the world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government, Trump reiterated that China's cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has cost more than 100,000 American lives and over one million lives worldwide.
“Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities. Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe,” he said.
Trump said that later in the day, he would issue a proclamation to better secure America’s vital university research and “to suspend the entry of certain foreign nationals from China who have been identified as potential security risks”.
Asserting that he is also taking action to protect the integrity of America's financial system, Trump said he was instructing his presidential working group on financial markets to study the differing practices of Chinese companies listed on the US financial markets with a goal of protecting American investors.
“Investment firms should not be subjecting their clients to the hidden and undue risks associated with financing Chinese companies that do not play by the same rules. Americans are entitled to fairness and transparency,” he said.