April 15 (UPI) — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization amid the coronavirus, saying now is the time for unity not division.
Repeating a comment he made last week in response to Trump, who was then only threatening to pull funding from the WHO, Guterres said once the pandemic is over there will be time to reflect and examine how all those involved reacted to the crisis “but now is not that time.”
“As it is not that time,” he said in a statement late Tuesday, “it is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus. As I have said before, now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”
Trump on Tuesday announced he was pulling funding from the WHO as his administration conducts a review of the group’s response to the COVID-19.
Trump accused the WHO of “mismanaging and covering up the spread” of COVID-19, demanding “full accountability” from the organization as its leading donor.
“America and the world have chosen to rely on the WHO for accurate, timely and independent information to make important public health recommendations and decisions,” Trump said. “If we cannot trust that this is what we will receive from the WHO, our country will be forced to find other ways to work with other nations to achieve public health goals.”
Trump’s decision to pull funding was met with swift criticism from American Medical Association President Patrice Harris and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates.
“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” Gates tweeted early Wednesday. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs WHO now more than ever.”
Meanwhile, India published its revised lockdown guidelines on Wednesday that emphasize a slackening of some restrictions from next week.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the country’s 1.3 billion citizens that the 21-day lockdown they were under, which was about to expire, would be extended until May 3.
Since mid-March, much of the country’s transportation system, from international flights to rickshaws, was ground to a halt, cinemas and shopping malls were ordered to close and religious halls and places of worship were shuttered.
Some of the world’s most stringent lockdown rules will continue under the new guidelines, but come Monday, fisheries, animal husbandry and tea, coffee and rubber plantations, among other agricultural activities, may open for work again, at the discretion of states and district administrations “based on strict compliance to the existing guidelines” of social distancing and others, the government said.
Other industries to be affected include farm equipment and supplies manufacturers and other agriculture-related businesses, as well as a slew of other industries.
The announcement came as China, the former epicenter of the outbreak, reported a drop in new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, signaling efforts to stem infections crossing its border from Russia may be working.
Beijing’s National Health Commission recorded 46 new cases of COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours. Among those infections, 36 were imported, a drop from the 86 such cases reported on Tuesday and the 98 foreign cases registered on Monday.
The Asian nation has implemented a series of measures, such as closing all land border checkpoints with Russia on April 8, to stop infections from entering the country, particularly through Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province that has received many of the foreign cases.
Since it began announcing imported cases in early March, China has recorded 1,500 infections coming from abroad.
The new infections increase its tally to 82,295 since the virus emerged from its central city of Wuhan in December before spreading the world over.
The health commission also reported one death over the prior 24 hours for a total of 3,342 in the past five months.