World Health Organisation chief slams US for politicising coronavirus crisis

The World Health Organisation’s chief slammed the US for politicising the Covid-19 pandemic and singled out the Taiwan government for condoning what he said were online attacks against him.

In a series of scathing attacks, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also blamed the media for “adding fuel to the fire” on Wednesday amid escalating geopolitical tensions from US President Donald Trump, who blamed the WHO for being China-centric and threatened to stop funding the international body.

Tedros denied he was favourable to China and thanked the US for its generous funding, but said the two countries should work together.

“Now, the US and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy,” Tedros said. “[There is] no need to use Covid to score political points.”

“We don’t do politics at WHO,” he said. “We care for the poor. We care for those who are vulnerable.”

On Tuesday, Trump threatened to withhold US funding from the World Health Organisation. He had castigated the WHO on Twitter earlier that day and issued a veiled threat against the agency.

“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China-centric. We will be giving that a good look,” he said.

“Fortunately, I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”

” Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020

Responding to a question about Trump’s criticism, Tedros told a press conference: “Please don’t politicise this virus. It exploits the differences you have at the national level. If you want to be exploited and if you want to have more body bags, then you do it.”

Tedros also turned to what he said were personal racist comments that started in Taiwan.

“I can tell you personally attacks which have been going on for more than two, three months: abuses, or racist comments, giving me names, black or negro,” he said. “Maybe for the first time I will make this public: even death threats. I don’t give a damn.

“Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan … And Taiwan, the foreign ministry, they also know the complaint. They didn’t dissociate themselves. They even started criticising me in the middle of all that insult and slur. But I didn’t care ” three months.

“Since I don’t have any inferiority complex when I’m personally affected or attacked by racial slurs, I don’t care, because I am a very proud black person or negro. I don’t care being called even negro ” I am.”

Taiwan has criticised WHO for not working with the self-ruling island, which China insists should not be individually represented on the international level.

Two weeks before the WHO said in a tweet on January 14 that the new coronavirus didn’t appear to spread via human-to-human transmission, citing Chinese government information, Taiwanese health authorities had reached the opposite conclusion.

But Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said they never heard back from the WHO even though Taiwan tried to reach out to the United Nations regarding its finding.

Taiwan is seen as one of the few places in the world which has successfully stemmed the spread of Covid-19 without resorting to draconian measures.

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This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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