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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, at a news conference in Geneva. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, center, discusses the novel coronavirus at a news conferences at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 9, 2020 (Keystone photo by Salvatore Di Nolfi via AP Images).

How Trump Misrepresents the WHO’s Coronavirus Response

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

President Donald Trump justified his recent announcement that the U.S. would halt further payments to the World Health Organization by claiming that “the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion” about the coronavirus pandemic. This charge has been widely rebutted by global health experts and practitioners. WHO representatives, journalists and academics have all demonstrated that the organization was doing what it could through diplomatic channels with Beijing to get updated information about the novel coronavirus that first emerged in central China and has since spread around the world. Contrary to Trump’s accusations, the WHO took early and forceful actions to warn governments of the threat from the virus.

It remains uncertain whether Chinese authorities were fully transparent in sharing information during the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan. While there is evidence to suggest that official Chinese data on the pandemic should be viewed with skepticism, international criticism of Beijing’s response may be partly colored by long-standing suspicions based on China’s opaque responses to previous outbreaks, such as SARS. Yet Trump’s criticism of the WHO for being overly deferential to China seems at odds with many of his statements—for example, his tweet in late January that, “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency.” ...

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