US President Donald Trump said Friday said he was severing ties with the World Health Organisation, signalling the end of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to the UN agency as the deadly coronavirus pandemic rages on.
Trump's move is likely to spark dismay, especially in other parts of the world where the outbreak has yet to reach its peak. Though Europe is emerging tentatively from lockdown, Russia recorded a record number of deaths on Friday and several nations in Latin America are bracing for difficult weeks ahead, especially Brazil, where the toll has soared.
Last month, Trump suspended funding to the WHO, accusing it of not doing enough to curb the initial spread of the novel coronavirus and being too lenient with China, where the global outbreak began last year.
On Friday, he made that decision permanent – a dire one for the UN agency's finances as the United States is by far its biggest contributor, having given US$400 million last year.
"Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organisation," Trump told reporters, claiming the organisation was under China’s “total control.”
The Republican leader said the US would be redirecting funds previously allocated to the WHO "to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs."
"The world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency," Trump said.
Beijing has furiously denied the US allegations that it played down the threat when the virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and insisted it has been forthcoming.
So far, the pandemic has claimed more than 362,000 lives and hammered the global economy. Populations are learning to adjust to life with the long-term threat of infection as the virus continues its march around the globe – with more than 5.8 million cases – and a vaccine remains elusive.
Fears – and IMF help – for Latin America
While Europe reopens, the urgency of tackling the disease elsewhere in the world was underlined by ballooning death tolls in South America -- most alarmingly in Brazil where more than 26,000 have died.
Chile posted another record number of deaths in a 24-hour period. The overall total neared 1,000, while another 3,698 infections were also confirmed, bringing the total number to 90,638. More than 80 percent of the country's known cases are in the capital Santiago.
Meanwhile, Peru has seen a surge in cases this week, with the death toll toppint 4,000.
Countries in the region are also being hit hard by the economic pain brought on by the crisis and Peru and Chile have both sought assistance.
On Friday, the International Monetary Fund approved a two-year US$24 billion credit line for Chile. The announcement came a day after Peru secured a two-year, US$11 billion credit line..
The Flexible Credit Line is a renewable funding mechanism granted to countries with strong economic policy track records, and Chile is only the fifth country to receive one. Along with Peru, Mexico and Colombia currently have FCLs in place.