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During a video conference of the World Health Assembly, an annual decision-making meeting of the World Health Organization, tensions between the United States and China took center stage, with the US lashing out at both China and the global health agency for their handling of the outbreak.
Alex Azar, US secretary of Health and Human Services referred to China while saying: “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world. We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information-sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith. This can not ever happen again.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated the agency’s intention to review the “lessons learned” about their response to the global pandemic which as of May 19 has claimed the lives of 320,198 people. At the conference, China pledged US$2 billion to fight the pandemic over the span of two years. Chinese President Xi Jinping also promised to make any development of a vaccine within its borders a public good for the international community.
After mounting pressure from nations that have called for an independent investigation into the origins of the pandemic, China has also tentatively agreed to allow for an investigation contingent led by the WHO. “This work needs a scientific and professional attitude, and needs to be led by the WHO; and the principles of objectivity and fairness need to be upheld,” said Xi.
China’s commitment to contributing to funding the global fight against the virus comes at a time when the US has halted WHO funding. President Trump took to Twitter on May 19, demanding the WHO “commit to substantive improvements within the next 30 days,” or he would permanently cease funding.
The US president claimed that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, to ward off coronavirus for a week. “All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be OK,” he said. The drug’s effectiveness against the virus has not yet been proven, with the US Food and Drug Administration issuing a safety warning in April.
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