April 15, 2020 / 1:51 PM / 3 months ago

Defeat virus first, criticise later, says WHO special envoy

FILE PHOTO: David Nabarro, candidate for Director General of the World Health Organization, attends a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

DUBAI (Reuters) - The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 special envoy on Wednesday urged critics to focus first on defeating the virus, after the United States halted funding over the international body’s handling of the pandemic.

President Donald Trump’s move on Tuesday to stop funding the Geneva-based organisation has drawn condemnation from infectious disease experts as the death toll continues to rise.

Trump has become increasingly hostile of the WHO and has accused the organisation of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the virus, which he said probably led to a wider outbreak than otherwise would have occurred.

“There are one or two countries that seem to be quite concerned about actions that were taken early on in the pandemic … we say to everybody, we plead with everybody, look forward. Focus on the epic struggle right now and leave the recriminations until later,” special envoy David Nabarro told an online conference, without naming the United States or Trump.

“If in the process you decide you want to declare that you’re going to withdraw funding or make other comments about the WHO, remember this is not just the WHO, this is the whole public health community that is involved right now and every single person in the world is a public health worker now, everybody is taking responsibility, everybody is sacrificing, everybody is involved.”

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Toby Chopra

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