More than two million people have contracted Covid-19 globally since the lethal outbreak began last December, passing another dark milestone as the World Health Organization is pulled into a war of words between the US and China.
The worldwide coronavirus case count now stands at over two million, the latest figures from AFP showed on Wednesday. More than half of this number relates to outbreaks in European nations, but globally the worst-hit country is the United States, with almost 610,000 identified Covid-19 patients. The US death toll stands at over 26,000 or over 28,300, depending on whether revised numbers that include “probable Covid-19 deaths” from New York since March 11 are added.
As the pandemic rages on in some 185 countries, Washington has escalated a rhetorical offensive on Beijing, blaming Chinese officials for concealing information about the virus from the international community, while pulling the World Health Organization (WHO) into the fray. On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump announced a funding freeze for the health body, accusing it of abetting a Chinese “cover-up” and “severely mismanaging” its response to the pandemic.
The United Nations, which oversees the WHO, soon shot back, insisting the organization needs all the support it can get at the moment, when thousands of personnel are on the “front lines” of the war against the virus in dozens of countries around the world.
“It is… 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,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement, though he refrained from addressing Washington or Trump directly.
Ahead of Trump’s move to halt the WHO’s funding – which may resume pending a “review” of the agency’s actions and allegedly questionable ties to China – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned against “attempting to politicize the issue of the coronavirus,” not only when it comes to the WHO, but in terms of accusations against other countries as well.
I would advise right now to focus on certain steps to stop the pandemic, its spread, and on minimizing the damage it does, first and foremost to the health and lives of people.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus previously said much the same, urging the US president to stop treating the virus as a political football, warning it could only create “many more body bags” at a time when international cooperation is paramount.