President Donald Trump may extend a temporary freeze on payments to the World Health Organization amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to several media reports.
Axios first reported Sunday the president was “leaning” toward keeping the freeze in place and The Wall Street Journal noted Trump had grown skeptical of an internal plan to restore limited funding to the agency.
The outlets said Trump could make a decision as early as this week.
The reports come just a day after Trump said the White House was considering restoring about 10% of U.S. funding to the health agency after he abruptly ended the country’s contributions last month. At the time, the president said he had grown frustrated with WHO and claimed the organization had “failed in its basic duty” as the coronavirus was declared a pandemic.
That frustration appeared to mellow in recent days and Fox News reported late Friday that the Trump administration had drafted a proposal to “pay up to what China pays in assessed contributions” to WHO. Traditionally, the U.S. has been WHO’s largest donor and the country contributed more than $400 million in 2019, or about 15% of its total budget.
Health experts condemned the president’s decision to suspend the funding at the time, which came as cases of the coronavirus were spreading rapidly around the globe. More than 1.4 million people in the U.S. have now tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 90,000 have died. The global death toll topped 300,000 last week.
“[WHO] must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19,” António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, said of the funding freeze. “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.”
But Trump, who has been criticized for his own response to the pandemic, moved to blame the agency for its role in the crisis.
“So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” he said during a news briefing in April. “The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable.”
In fact, the agency acted more quickly than the U.S. government to respond to the virus, issuing a global health emergency while urging international cooperation to stop its spread.
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