EU urges Trump to rethink American funding cut for WHO

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The European Union has urged US president Donald Trump to rethink his decision to cut American funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO) amid global criticism of the move.

Spiking coronavirus infection rates in India and elsewhere served as a reminder the global pandemic is far from contained, as Mr Trump charged that the WHO did not respond adequately to the pandemic.

The American leader also accused the UN’s health agency of being under China’s “total control”.

She added: “The WHO needs to continue being able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future.

“For this, the participation and support of all is required and very much needed.”

The US is the largest source of financial support for the WHO, and its exit is expected to significantly weaken the organisation.

Mr Trump said the US would be “redirecting” the money to “other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs”, without providing specifics.

The WHO would not comment on the announcement, but South African health minister Zweli Mkhize called it an “unfortunate” turn of events.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

In China, where the virus outbreak began, only four new confirmed cases were reported on Saturday, all brought from outside the country, and no new deaths.

Just 63 people remain in treatment.

After judging the situation there is now safe, a chartered flight carrying 200 German managers back to their jobs has landed in Tianijin, a port city just east of Beijing.

A flight carrying another 200 is due to touch down in Shanghai on Thursday.

“I’m really happy that business is starting again,” said Karin Wasowski, a Volkswagen employee, before boarding the flight in Frankfurt. “I’ve been working from a home office but that is, of course, something completely different to being there.”

Pakistan virus control measures
Rescue workers spray disinfectant in the All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan (AP)

Close to six million coronavirus infections have been reported worldwide, with more than 365,000 deaths and almost 2.5 million recoveries, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The true dimensions are widely believed to be significantly greater, with experts saying many victims died without ever being tested.

As some countries have effectively lowered the rate of infections, they have been moving ahead with relaxing restrictions, while keeping a very close eye on developments.

In South Korea, credited with one of the most successful programs to fight the pandemic, there were 39 new cases reported on Saturday, most of them in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area where officials have linked the infections to warehouse workers.

Authorities have so far maintained the phased reopening of schools in the hope that the recent transmissions could be contained quickly.

India registered another record single day jump of 7,964 cases and 265 deaths, a day before it was due to end its two-month-old lockdown.

That put the country’s total cases at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths and 82,369 recoveries, according to the health ministry.

Still, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an open letter that India was on the path to “victory” in its battle against the virus, and would “an example in economic revival”, while asking his countrymen to show “firm resolve”.

Russia recorded nearly 9,000 new cases overnight, around the daily level it has been at over the past two weeks as the virus continues to spread.

The national coronavirus task force said on Saturday that 4,555 Russians have died of Covid-19, and 396,575 infections have been recorded.

The relatively low mortality rate compared with other countries has prompted scepticism domestically and abroad.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres announced two peacekeepers serving in Mali had died from the virus. There have been 137 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among peacekeepers, the majority in Mali, but these were the first deaths.

The US has been worst hit by the outbreak, with more than 1.7 million cases and almost 103,000 deaths.

Cities and states are under increasing pressure to reopen, however, especially for service industries which have seen customer numbers evaporate.

The latest job-loss figures from the US labour department brought to 41 million the running total of Americans who have filed for unemployment since shutdowns took hold in mid-March.

But there have been worrying signs that as restrictions are eased, people have not been adhering to social distancing guidelines meant to help prevent the spread of the virus.

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said that as things stand with the American pandemic situation, if Mr Trump decides to go ahead with the Group of Seven summit in the US as he has suggested he might, she would not attend in person.

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