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After Trump's Threat, WHO Says Making Pandemic Political Will Lead to 'More Body Bags'

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After Trump's Threat, WHO Says Making Pandemic Political Will Lead to 'More Body Bags'

2020-04-09 10:45:02

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Image source: ITU Pictures via Wikimedia Commons)

Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is not standard politics — there is much more at stake, and the director-general of the World Health Organization wants Donald Trump to know that. The president issued a threat to WHO, and what he received back was not compliance but a warning that treating the pandemic like that will only lead to "more body bags."

Trump is having a difficult time accepting any responsibility for the pandemic. For weeks he denied it existed altogether. He referred to it as a hoax. Starting to come around with it, he blamed it on China. Once that didn't pan out exactly the way he wanted it to, he blamed WHO. 

He actually targeted both WHO and China for their early response to the novel coronavirus in remarks he made on Tuesday. He claimed the WHO, the United Nations organization that's responsible for international public health, seemed "very biased toward China." China has been accused of not being truthful about the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Trump said he'd consider pausing the funding to WHO, which would definitely affect it, as the United States is one of the world's biggest financial contributors to WHO. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization's director-general, spoke at a virtual press conference on Wednesday. He urged world leaders to keep their focus on saving lives, noting that political attacks would only lead to "more body bags." He was certainly referring to Trump's threat.

"Please do not politicize this virus," Ghebreyesus continued. "If you want to be exploited, and if you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don't want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it." 

He also suggested countries should work together in their responses to the pandemic. Nearly 1.5 million people have been infected by COVID-19 worldwide, and more than 88,000 people have died, according to the numbers on the Johns Hopkins University database at the time of writing.

"Without unity, we assure you even any country that may have a better system will be in trouble and more crisis. That's our message. Unity at the national level," explained Ghebreyesus. "No need to use COVID to score political points. No need. You have many other ways to prove yourselves." 

Trump discussed it again on Wednesday at his press briefing, mentioning the flak he received for his travel ban to China. He later issued one for Europe as well.

"They actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it, and they were wrong," he said. "They've been wrong about a lot of things. 

"They had a lot of information early, and they didn't — they seemed to be very China-centric. We have to look in it," Trump concluded.

Tedros continued to encourage unity in his remarks, noting that at a global level, resources wouldn't be a problem for WHO. He expects the U.S. to continue its contributions and thanked the country as well for its "generous support so far." 

On a different note, Tedros mentioned that Thursday marks 100 days since WHO was notified by China about the first cases of a "pneumonia with unknown cause." In late January the organization announced that COVID-19 was a public emergency of international concern. By March 11 it had elevated to a pandemic.

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