The United States on Thursday, April 9, accused the World Health Organisation (WHO) of indulging in politics instead of paying heed to Taiwan's early warnings over the coronavirus outbreak.
After accusing WHO of favouring China earlier this week, US President Donald Trump has gone on the offensive again against the UN body, threatening to cut off funding to the organization, which is leading the charge against the global pandemic that has infected more than 1.6 million people around the world and claimed more than 95,000 lives.
US slams WHO for ignoring Taiwan's warnings
The US is one of WHO's biggest financial backers and Trump's administration has already slashed America's contribution by half from $122.6 million to $57.9 million. Elaborating on Trump's claims, the US State Department said WHO was too late in raising an alarm over COVID-19, showed deference to China and also questioned why it did not follow-up on warnings from Taiwan.
The United States is "deeply disturbed that Taiwan's information was withheld from the global health community, as reflected in the WHO's Jan 14, 2020 statement that there was no indication of human-to-human transmission," a State Department spokesman said in a statement obtained by The Straits Times.
"The WHO once again chose politics over public health," the spokesman said, criticising the WHO for denying Taiwan even observer status since 2016. Observer status is a privilege granted by some organizations to non-members, allowing them to participate in the organization's activities in a limited capacity. The WHO's actions have "cost time and lives," the spokesman added.
Taiwan warned WHO about coronavirus outbreak
Taiwan, which has successfully managed to prevent a large-scale outbreak despite its geographical proximity to China, warned the WHO on December 31 about the transmission of the coronavirus between humans.
According to Taiwan's vice-president Chen Chien-Jen, Taiwanese doctors had learned of colleagues falling ill in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus in China and Taipei officials had reported their findings to the International Health Regulations (IHR), a WHO framework for exchange of epidemic prevention and response data between 196 countries but WHO failed to act on it.
Trump trying to shift blame?
Critics say that Trump's sudden threats against the WHO seems to be a political ploy to find a foreign scapegoat as he continues to face criticism over his handling of the COVID-19 crisis in the US, which has killed more close to 16,700 people across the country.
Trump himself claimed in January that the US had the coronavirus outbreak "totally under control" and had predicted it may be gone by April due to a rise in temperatures.