A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the government still supported the UN agency, saying it had “an important role to play” in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The US president told reporters at a White House press conference on Tuesday that he was stopping funding to WHO, as it had “failed in its basic duty” in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He accused WHO of mismanaging and covering up the spread of the virus in China and said that it had to be held accountable.
The US is the largest single contributor to WHO, and gave the organisation more than £300 million in 2019.
The British government pays the UN agency around £200 million a year and the PM’s spokesperson confirmed that it had no intention of halting its contributions.
The Downing Street official said: “Our position is that the UK has no plans to stop funding the WHO, which has an important role to play in leading the global health response.
“Coronavirus is a global challenge and it’s essential that countries work together to tackle this shared threat.”
The PM’s spokesman also confirmed that Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, would participate in a G7 video conference on Thursday, that will be chaired by the US president.
He said that Mr Raab will call for “global collaboration” in tackling the coronavirus crisis.
The official told reporters: “The G7 is committed to doing whatever it takes to tackle this pandemic.
“The Foreign Secretary will underline the need for global collaboration to tackle this crisis.
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Mr Trump told journalists: “Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death.
“This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage.
“Instead, the WHO willingly took China’s assurances to face value… and defended the actions of the Chinese government.”
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference that the United States “has been a long-standing and generous friend of the WHO, and we hope it will continue to be so”.
“WHO is reviewing the impact on our work of any withdrawal of U.S. funding and we will work with partners to fill any gaps and ensure our work continues uninterrupted,” Tedros added.
Chinese officials initially tried to cover up the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan and punished whistleblowers who tried to raise the alarm.
Beijing only allowed WHO experts to visit China and investigate the outbreak on February 10, by which time the country had recorded more than 40,000 cases.
Crucially, the UN agency appeared at first to back Chinese claims that the virus could not be transmitted from one human to another.